Reviews for If a Bus Could Talk : The Story of Rosa Parks


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 January 2000
Ages 5^-9. There have been several children's books about Rosa Parks over the years, including the moving autobiography I Am Rosa Parks (1997), written with Jim Haskins. However, this picture-book biography condescends to kids, as if they require a sweet-faced talking bus with cute, flapping eyelashes and a smiling mouth, to entice them to the history. But beyond the intrusive frame, Ringgold tells the story in a direct text and bright acrylic narrative paintings, showing Parks as a political activist whose refusal to give up her seat on the bus sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. There are dramatic landmark scenes from the civil rights movement, including the lunch counter sit-ins, the leadership role of Dr. King, and the grief at his assassination. On the final pages, the magic realism is integral to the story as the passengers on the bus turn out to be Dr. King and other leaders paying tribute to "the mother of the Civil Rights movement . . . who, by sitting down, inspired people all over the world to stand up for freedom." ((Reviewed January 1 & 15, 2000)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2000 Spring
En route to school, narrator Marcie hops aboard a talking bus that tells the tale of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. The gimmick doesn't work--Marcie is a flat character, and the magic bus detracts from Parks's incredible story--but the book is easily redeemed by Ringgold's trademark black-outlined, richly textured, fiercely colorful illustrations.Copyright 2000 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Library Talk Reviews 2000 March
When young Marcia steps onto the talking bus, it tells her the story of courageous Rosa Parks, the matriarch of the Civil Rights movement. "We know; we were there" chant the riders repeatedly as they affirm the details of Rosa Park's life as told by the talking bus. Ringgold's concept of a talking bus may seem absurd at first, but the story soon captures the reader's imagination, causing disbelief to be suspended. Ringgold's, colorful, full-page illustrations add vitality to the text. This title provides an easy-to-understand telling of the Civil Rights Movement and a heroic, determined young woman who made a vital difference in our society by fighting for unjust laws to be changed. The book definitely has an important place in the children's collections of school and public libraries. Its conversational style will lend itself to storytimes as well as individual reading. Recommended. Donna Miller, Media Coordinator, Mesa County Valley School District, Grand Junction, Colorado © 2000 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1999 November #3
Underdeveloped poetic conceits short-circuit this profile of civil rights activist Rosa Parks. Marcie, an African-American child, is waiting for the bus to school when a strange bus pulls up; for some reason, she boards it. There is no driver, but the bus itself talks. It informs Marcie that she is riding on "the Rosa Parks bus," the very vehicle that Parks had been riding in 1955 when, refusing to give up her seat to a white man, she helped trigger the Montgomery Bus Boycott. (In a bizarre irony, Marcie is made to give up her seat, which is ostensibly intended for Parks.) The bus then recounts Parks's childhood, education and tireless work as a civil rights activist; Marcie's fellow passengers serve as chorus, intermittently chiming in, "Amen! Amen!... We know, we were there." The account is full of hard-hitting information but suffers from confusing prose ("The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the beginning of a national movement in which people of every race organized protests against segregation in their own towns"). Finally, Parks boards the bus, and it emerges that Marcie's fellow riders include Parks's husband and Martin Luther King Jr.; in a throwaway ending, Marcie debarks at her school ("I can't wait to tell my class about this!"). Ringgold's paintings help animate this uneven tale, but a depiction of the bus with facial features, hair and hat compromises her powerful folk-art style. Other picture books chronicle Parks's life more lucidly; this is a disappointingly bumpy ride. Ages 5-9. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2000 January
K-Gr 4-A talking bus is literally the vehicle for this picture-book biography. Marcie, on her way to school, finds herself on a driverless bus occupied by a group of unfamiliar passengers who don't seem to notice she's there. A disembodied voice tells her that this used to be the Cleveland Avenue bus but is now the Rosa Parks bus, and then launches into an account of the woman's life. Ringgold recounts the dramatic events triggered by Parks's refusal to give up her seat: the Montgomery bus boycott; the leadership, persecution, and death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; the Supreme Court decision to ban bus segregation; and public recognition of the woman who started it all. The story ends when Parks herself enters the bus for a birthday celebration with the passengers who are now revealed as personages from her history. While the artifice of the talking bus and a few minor lapses in logic sometimes detract from a solid telling, the story does much to humanize a larger-than-life figure. Ringgold's colorful, textured acrylic-on-canvas paper paintings done in a na f style are a perfect complement to the stark realism of the events and the simple dignity of the subject. Color and line are used to suggest ideas, such as the turbulent purple, black, blue, and chalky white and the jagged forms depicting the Ku Klux Klan and bombings. Text and art harmonize, with print changing from black to white and appearing on each page in an interesting variety of layouts. An accessible telling and beautiful illustrations result in a worthy contribution to this developing genre.-Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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