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.