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If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks Hardcover – November 1, 1999

25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 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 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 790L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; 1st edition (November 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689818920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689818929
  • Product Dimensions: 11.8 x 0.4 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #500,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Faith Ringgold was born in Harlem in 1930. She received a degree in art education from the City College of New York and was an art teacher long before she became a professional artist. She is best known for her 'painted story quilts,' some of which hang in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Tar Beach, RinggoldÕs first book for children, won the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration and was named a Caldecott Honor Book. Ringgold is now a professor of art at the University of California at San Diego. She lives in California and in New Jersey.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By ReadItDiva on November 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
What would you do if a bus with eyes, nose, red hair, and a yellow cap pulled up to your bus stop? When the door opens and a voice calls out, "Step on up, young lady," Marcie does just that. It will be the ride of her life, for she hears the courageous story of Rosa Parks straight from Rosa's bus itself. This story spans a spectrum of detail in 32 pages: from Rosa McCauley's childhood in Pine Level, Alabama, to her marriage to Raymond Parks, to that fateful bus ride on December 1, 1955, to her continued struggle for equality after the boycott. The artistic style of Faith Ringgold leaps from the page in dramatic acrylic color on canvas. The suggested reading age for this book is 5 - 9. Yet it is not a quick read. Text is detailed enough to make some younger listeners restless. Vocabulary is challenging enough to daunt some older beginner readers. But don't let that deter you from sharing If a Bus Could Talk with your children. No doubt they take their integrated schools, pools, movies, and restaurants for granted. If anything, this story will get THEM to talk!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. K. Pritchett on September 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The title is promising, but misleading. "If a Bus Could Talk" implies an entertaining story for the beginning reader; but, the concept is lost as the story drags from the first few sentences. The gimmick of the driverless bus is mishandled, and one soon wonders why the author thought it necessary add a gimmick to a true story that is inherently interesting when skillfully told. One might speculate that someone early on criticized the book as being a Civil Rights manual for young adults rather than a picture book for children; hence, the story was prefaced with the garbled mess that makes up its first few pages of text. Perhaps that part was hastily added. The suggested audience is the five-to-nine age group. Any healthy five-year old will be dozing from page one. Once it becomes obvious that the prose is better suited to an older child, though, the biography itself becomes quite informative.

By the third or fourth page, the talking bus is forgotten, except for the convention of including a quotation mark at the beginning of each paragraph. The story becomes a straightforward account of Rosa McCauley Parks' life story. As such, it is compelling. The KKK is mentioned early on, with dramatic descriptions of midnight raids that must have been terrifying to a black child growing up in the hostile environment of segregated Alabama. The book mentions torture, beatings and lynchings--quite graphic for a picture book. But it goes on to provide good, detailed biographical material on Rosa, from childhood into adulthood. It tells of her mother, Leona's, determination to have Rosa educated beyond the shamefully lacking, bare-minimum education provided for black children by the state of Alabama before 1960.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If a bus could talk is about a little girl named Marcie who steps onto a bus that can talk. The bus tells her that she is ridng on the Rosa Parks bus. Then the bus tells her about Rosa Park's life and about Martin Luther King and the bus boycott. I learned alot about Rosa Park's life from reading this book, and I would recommend If a Bus Could Talk to any child who doesn't know much about the civil rights movement.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By loving purple on January 31, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My 3 and 1/2 year old likes this book but it is a bit wordy and also gets into more advanced topics that I don't really want to get into now. I don't want her to read so much about African Americans as victims while she too young to understand more of the story. It is good - I just change some of the words while reading. As she gets older, I'll read it word for word.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Beatrice Young on February 24, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We wanted our 7 year-old grandson to understand racism and the book talked about it in suh a child friendly manner.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Robinson on July 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great text to use on an elementary level, it teaches the literary skill flashback. The pictures are inviting and set the mood of events, that reflect Rosa Parks challenge. The text has sophisticated wording, hence, I suggest using it as a read aloud. Faith Ringgold, is a great author. I love her work, it's inviting, child friendly and very objective. A must have for a classroom and home library!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By vkmays on January 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a really good Biography for young children. If you are looking for a book that is age appropriate - this one is it! I especially appreciated the depiction of the Klu Klux Klan...so often children's biographies leave that part out...and it is reality!
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My 7 year old read this book as one of this projects for February 2013
Black History month and loved it. He has quite the imagination so the
thought of a bus talking thrilled him. He had actually seen this bus in
Detroit's Henry Ford Musuem, so it made the story more relevant to him.
Great way to couple discussion of today's current events on news about
some states' efforts to limit voting rights in 2013 with this
historical lesson that showed when people limited rights to eat at lunch counters
and to ride buses. Illustrations are great engaging. Highly recommend it.
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