Monday, May 14, 2012


Thanks, again - Samantha Fry.

Giovanna, N. (2005). Rosa. Henry Holt & Company: New York, NY.

       Rosa is a picture book written about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  This is an excellent book to use when teaching about Civil Rights in the 1950s and 1960s.  It goes much more in depth than the one or two paragraphs the social studies textbooks give to Rosa Parks and the boycott.  This book also makes Rosa Parks come alive for the students and they see her as a real person, instead of just an important person in history.

       In this book, Rosa gets on the public bus and sits in the neutral section, where whites and black can both sit.  She starts daydreaming and is startled awake by the bus driver yelling at her to give up her seat.  Rosa refuses to leave her seat, so the bus driver calls the police.  After Rosa is taken to jail, the women in the Women’s Political Council decide to organize a bus boycott.  The boycott lasts for almost a year, and ends with the Supreme Court deciding that segregation on public transportation is unconstitutional.

       The illustrations in Rosa are by Bryan Collier.  Rosa was a Caldecott Honor Book in 2006, because of Collier’s beautiful illustrations.  They really make the story come alive for the reader and are great for sharing whole-class with students.  Collier uses paintings for the illustrations.  They have a dark hue to them that sets the stage for the dark tone of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  The edition that I read was a hardcover without a dust jacket.

       The setting of this story is an integral part of the story.  This story takes place in Montgomery, Alabama, and on the bus that Rosa Parks was asked to move her seat on.  This story would not be the same in another setting.  The character of Rosa Parks is developed in this story.  We hear her thoughts in this story.  The reader sees that Rosa is a normal wife – she thinks about her husband and what she is going to make for dinner when she gets home that night.  This is something students reading or hearing this story can relate to, since they probably ask their parents every night, “What’s for dinner?”  This helps Rosa Parks be relatable to the readers.

       Rosa is appropriate for intermediate students in elementary school and middle school students.  I wouldn’t recommend it to primary students because of the vocabulary.  This is a great book to use with intermediate students to help build their vocabulary, especially words like segregation, boycott, seamstress (Rosa Parks’ job), and “separate but equal.”  As mentioned earlier, I would use this during a lesson on Civil Rights, especially an introductory lesson to get the students hooked on the topic.  It mentions Brown v. Board of Education, Martin Luther King, Jr., and segregation laws, so there are a lot of things to do with Civil Rights mentioned in this book and it lends itself well to great discussions with the students while reading this book aloud. 

       BIG QUESTION: After the bus driver yells at Rosa Parks to leave her seat, pause and ask the students, “How would you react if you were asked to give up your seat?  How would you feel and what would you do?”

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