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Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 10, 2010
This is an excellent new picture book biography about Canadian Civil Rights pioneer Viola Desmond. Like her better-known counterpart Rosa Parks, Viola refused to give up her seat--but in this case in a segregated movie theatre in 1946 Nova Scotia, rather than a city bus in 1955 Montgomery.

The story is told in a folksy, oral-history tradition, with the narrator speaking directly to the audience, drawing us into this compelling story of racism and courage. Viola, owner of a beauty salon, is forced to stop in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia when her car breaks down. To pass the time, she decides to stop at the local movie theatre. She finds the perfect seat, down in front, and before she can settle in to enjoy the movie, an usher tells her she has to go to the balcony. When she refuses, "They took Viola to jail. Can you believe it?" After being fined $20 (a lot of money back then) for "refusing to pay the proper ticket price," she was released. The judge wouldn't listen when she said she was happy to pay for a downstairs ticket.

Viola and black community groups decided not to put up with this segregationist treatment, and appealed her case. Although the appeal was unsuccessful, the author points out that Viola's fight galvanized the fight against segregation in Canada, which was outlawed in the late 1950's.

Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged! is the first book of Jody Nyasha Warner, a writer, editor, and former librarian who is particularly interested in African Canadian history. The strikingly colorful acrylic illustrations by Canadian illustrator Richard Rudnicki add significantly to the story; on the publisher's webpage, you can click inside to see a number of two-page spreads from the book. I particularly liked the artist's use of hot colors such as orange, red, and yellow, which lend an almost expressionistic color palette, enhancing the emotion of the story.

The book includes an afterword which provides a brief, but fascinating, glimpse of African Canadian history, placing Viola's story in some context and also providing some biographical material on this Canadian civil rights leader. The author also provides a few suggestions for additional reading on African Canadian history.

This book would be a terrific addition to school library collections, and would be an excellent choice to read during African-American history month, giving students some insights into similar struggles that went on among our neighbors to the North.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Viola Desmond, an African Canadian woman who owned a successful beauty parlor in Nova Scotia, lived during a period of institutionalized segregation in Canada. One day when Viola decided she wanted to watch a film at the beautiful Roseland Theatre, she decided to occupy a seat with a better view on the ground floor, which was designated for whites. Even though Viola offered to pay the extra amount for a ground floor seat, she was still arrested for refusing to sit in the balcony section for blacks. Viola spent a night in jail, her case went all the way to Nova Scotia's Supreme Court, and she became known as Canada's first civil rights activist.

This carefully-researched book provides young learners with an informative look at racial segregation in Canada and a pivotal event in the civil rights movement. Interestingly, the book's 2010 publication coincided with a formal apology from Nova Scotia's government and a pardon of the charge against her, the first posthumous free pardon ever granted in Canada. Parents and teachers seeking new resources to teach about discrimination and social justice can use this book to add both an international dimension and a gender perspective to the lesson.
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