Rosa More than 50 years after her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus, Mrs. Rosa Parks is the subject of this picture-book tribute to her courageous action and the events that followed. Full description
"I've had enough! I can't put up with any more, no, no, no, no, no, no. I've had enough!" -- Paul McCartney, 1977 from "I've Had Enough"
The story of how Rosa Parks literally went on a sit down strike in late 1955 when she was told to relinquish her seat on the bus for a white passenger is one I have been told my entire life. This beautiful book brings Rosa's daring and courageous stand (or sit down strike) to light for readers of all ages to appreciate and respect.
Kim & Reggie Harris, a gifted husband and wife team have done a collection of excellent songs about the underground railroad and bigotry in general. One song that I especially love contains these lyrics: "if you're riding in the back of the bus and you don't see me nowhere/just come on up to the front of the bus 'cause I'll be driving right there!" Get on Board! Underground Railroad & Civil Rights Freedom Songs, Vol. 2 and Steal Away - Songs of the Underground Railroad. Rosa Parks took her place in the call for Civil Rights by refusing to give in to a stupid racist practice.
I have learned over the years that Rosa took a seat in the middle of the bus instead of the far front or back. Ms. Parks, a seamstress in a department store had put in a full day and had paid her fare and since she paid her fare, she was darn well entitled to sit wherever she darn well pleased. She was a paying customer!
This book, like so many about Rosa Parks is literally riding the Bus of Myths about Rosa's activism, reinforcing the myth that she was tired. To its credit, this book confronts Jim Crow head on. Rosa was not physically tired; she was just good and tired of the bigotry and the callous treatment that was afforded blacks and other nonwhite people.Read more ›
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75 of 79 people found the following review helpful
"The only tired I was, was tired of giving in".5 Feb 2006
E. R. Bird
- Published on Amazon.com
When I was a child in elementary school and Black History Month came along, the children in my class were taught small songs about various African-American heroes. There was the Harriet Tubman song, the Benjamin Banneker song, and the Rosa Parks song. The Rosa Parks song began in this way, "Rosa Parks was tired and sat / In the front of the bus not back / They tried to make her change her seat / Because she was black". Of course, there are two things wrong with this song already. First of all, she sat in the middle of the bus. Not the back of it. Second of all she wasn't tired. Ms. Parks was an activist, but to make her seem like an everywoman her membership in the NAACP was downplayed so that she would be more sympathetic. The plan worked beautifully and Ms. Parks was raised to the status of folk-hero, as was right. UN-fortunately, there are countless children's books out there that choose to ignore her activism. They are under the distinct impression that if children also think that Ms. Parks was tired or unwittingly told to move that it's so much easier a story to tell. "Rosa" is one such book.
No one is going to hold this book in their hands and say that it isn't one of the loveliest creations ever to hit the children's book market. Bryan Collier, by all accounts one of the nicest guys on the globe, has never received the respect and attention he so richly deserves. My hope is that someday he illustrates a book worthy of a Caldecott Award rather than a Caldecott Honor. Unfortunately this was not the book. It is through no fault of his own, of course. Mr. Collier has taken his trademark watercolor and collage technique and given it a purposeful yellow hue. He has done this, he says in his Illustrator's Note, because "I wanted the reader to feel in that heat a foreshadowing, an uneasy quiet before the storm". Along the way he spots the pictures with intelligent details as well. A man riding the bus holds up an article prefaced by just the words, "Emmett Till". When Rosa refuses to move you suddenly get an image from her perspective. A white man glares at her with obvious hatred while some black women frown at Rosa for putting them in (what they see as) potential danger. And that image of just her hands clutching the strap of her purse? Heck, I wouldn't mind framing that and putting it on a wall. That's art in the purest sense of the word. So no argument on how wonderful the images are in this book. It's the words you have to contest.
I had high hopes for Rosa. I hoped that the book talked about Ms. Parks in the NAACP, didn't perpetuate the myth that she was "tired", and was well-written. Says Rosa Parks in her autobiography, "Rosa Parks: My Story", "People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in". In fact, further reading of her book shows that Ms. Parks was an active member of the NAACP. She was an activist and at the time of her arrest the NAACP had been hoping to have a case in which they could file suit against the city of Montgomery over bus segregation. A woman had been arrested earlier that summer but had paid her fine without objection. "Hers certainly wasn't a good case for Mr. Nixon to appeal to a higher court. I knew they needed a plaintiff who was beyond reproach". And though she did not step-by-step plan her own arrest, she understood its greater implications.
Ms. Giovanni does not mention that Rosa Parks was more than just an everyday seamstress going home at the end of a workday. At one point she sees a man who "came frequently to the NAACP Youth Council affairs", but the book makes no mention that she herself was a member. To her credit, the author does make an after-the-fact statement of how Rosa wasn't physically tired. So there is that. But there are factual inaccuracies in this book that do not match Ms. Parks' own book. According to "Rosa", Jo Ann Robinson learned of the arrest when, "A sister member of the Women's Political Council approached her just as she reached the checkout lane". Ms. Robinson was indeed the president of this council but she was told of Ms. Park's arrest through Fred Gray, a black attorney. In "Rosa" the Women's Council is the only organization that comes up with the idea of the boycott. In reality much of the credit goes to the work of E.D. Nixon who mobilized support through the city's black ministers. "Rosa" mentions them later when the boycott has already been established and the NAACP, Women's Political Council, and churches decide on Martin Luther King Jr. as their spokesperson.
Okay, but then there's the writing itself. It's very odd, but for some reason the book makes a big big point out of how many of the women who contributed to the Civil Rights movement spent much of their time thinking about tending to their husbands. Right before the bus driver tells her to move the book says that Ms. Parks was, "daydreaming about her good day and planning her special meal for her husband". Two other times it says that she would surprise her husband with "meat loaf, his favorite" and that when she was paying her fare "she was smiling in anticipation of the nice dinner she would make". Now Ms. Giovanni, as it happens, knew Rosa Parks personally so we can assume that she got this information firsthand. It just struck me as a touch out of place. When Rosa got on that bus she recognized the bus driver as a particularly nasty fellow she'd dealt with in the past before. There was no daydreaming involved in her autobiography. Apparently such additions make for a better story though. When Jo Ann Robinson finds out about Rosa's arrest she "rushed home to put dinner on the table, cleaned up the kitchen, and put the kids to bed". Obviously these are all important things in their own way, but why were they included in this story? Is Ms. Giovanni trying to make a point that the women of the civil rights movement didn't abandon their families while they fought for justice? If so, why? It doesn't seem integral to the story. This is a book about Rosa Parks and the larger context of what she did.
And then there's the text. It's unfortunate but I kept getting annoyed at the book's writing style. At one point it says that "Rosa Parks was the best seamstress. The needle and thread flew through her hands like the gold spinning from Rumpelstiltskin's loom". Rumpelstiltskin's loom, eh? Rumpelstiltskin had a loom? I guess saying "spinning wheel" would have been redundant since she'd already said "spinning" and figured that few enough people know what looms are to complain. It's a petty complaint with the book, sure, but it rankles. In another case the book never mentions how Ms. Parks got out of jail. She goes to jail, sure. But you would think her release would be an important part of the story. For all that the kids reading this book know, Ms. Parks is still sitting inside that jail cell in Montgomery, Alabama.
After a second and third reading of the book I flipped to the back to see what books were included in "Rosa"'s bibliography. Obviously Ms. Giovanni wasn't working off of "Rosa Parks: My Story", so what books did she consult? From her friendship with Ms. Parks it must have been from one-on-one interviews since there isn't hide nor hair of a bibliography to be seen. You may say that it's a little silly of me to think there would be a bibliography in the back of a picture book, but I've read enough empowering and well-wrought picture book biographies that DID have bibliographies that I naturally assumed "Rosa" would too. No such luck.
So here's the dilemma. The book is about a true hero of the American people. Nobody but NOBODY contests that. The pictures in this book are drop-dead gorgeous too. Bryan Collier is a genius. Rosa Parks, however, deserved the best possible picture book biography. Instead she has a book about her that does not credit factual sources, includes details that do not fit, and holds back important information that children should learn. You want my advice? Read "Rosa Parks: My Story" (NOT the picture book one but the 192 page version), know the true facts of the case, then take "Rosa" and show the pictures to your kids while telling them the true tale. Criticizing anything that has to do with Rosa Parks is a dangerous activity. Ms. Giovanni's heart is in the right place. And, I will point out, this book garnered itself a coveted Caldecott, so what the heck do I know? For your consideration.
38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful illustrations, writing is poorly done30 Nov 2005
Rachel D. Flachman
- Published on Amazon.com
I bought this book because I wanted something substantive for the little girls in my life who dream of being princesses... (really, how many tiara's does a four-year old really need?) I read the first few pages and was smitten with the illustrations. They are beautiful. Well done Mr. Collier. Since beautiful illustrations go far in this age range, I would give this book three stars.
The Rosa Parks story stands alone as one of substance. But this book falls short of providing a readable story for children. It doesn't flow as good writing should for any age group, but rather jumps around and tries to provide so much data, that it fails to actually tell a story about the great lady it was written to commemorate.
If you have enough history about the story and can tell it yourself to your children, the book may be worth buying for the illustrations alone. For my money, I would rather find something that is also a good read for my kids.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
"...She was tired. Not tired from work, but tired of putting white people first..."26 April 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
I liked Ms. Giovanni's approach to telling this story. Given that it is a children's book, I appreciate that she looks at the humanity of Rosa Parks, (a woman with a life and a husband), rather than just her political role. I know that my kids will relate better to the story because of that.
Furthermore, Ms. Giovanni doesn't pretend that the events on the bus were an unforeseeable coincidence. I find the lead up to be both personal and portentous of things to come. It reads better as being opportunistic rather than engineered or manipulated and I don't think that she portrays Rosa as lacking intention. In fact, I imagine that Ms. Giovanni's source (as I have read) was her meeting with Rosa Parks herself. I expect that, in person, the truth of her story reaches a deeper personal level and Ms. Giovanni felt able to build on previously documented interpretations. Everyone has a voice and with the warm, expressive pictures, I find it an effective combination for children.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful and well written28 Jan 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a beautifully illustrated AND written picture book about Rosa Parks. Both the words and illustrations are sophisticated and will spark questions when you read this aloud. It is difficult to find books about Rosa Parks that speak the truth and this one does. Nikki Giovanni, the poet, writes in a straightforward way that doesn't dumbdown the text as so many children's books do. The conversations will go beyond this book...which is what we want with a good picture book!
Bryan Collier's illustrations are genius. Each one is a discussion within itself.
Excellent book if you are a teacher or parent who likes to not only read to your children, but also question and discuss beyond the text. Wonderful! Well deserving of the King award for illustrations.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful prose and illustrations, but...11 Jun 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
if you're looking for an children's biography of Rose Parks or of the Civil Rights Movement, this books isn't it.
Buy it for Giovanni's magical and powerful words.
Buy it for Collier's amazing pictures.
Don't buy it if it's intended to teach children who are wholly uninformed about American history. I had six immigrant teenagers read this book, and all they could tell me after they were finished was that Rosa Parks was a lady who was thrown off a bus because of white people. They weren't sure why. And then a bunch of people walked to Washington D.C. afterwards, but they weren't sure how this connected to Rosa getting thrown off the bus. In the end the teens were really confused.