Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book-A-Day 19: Back of the Bus

Back of the Bus
Written by: Aaron Reynolds
Illustrated by: Floyd Cooper
Imagine sitting upon that historic bus ride in which Rosa Parks stepped aboard and refused to give up her seat.  What must it have felt like to be a part of that experience?  Now imagine, you are a child witnessing the scene of that day unfold.  What I love about Back of the Bus is that Aaron Reynolds creates a story very unique from any story we have read before about Rosa Parks and her refusal to forego her seat to a white passenger. The entire story is told from the perspective of a young African-American boy sitting at the back of the bus alongside his mother.  The story both begins and ends with the boy playing with a small toy marble.  That marble is used for a metaphor to express change by the end of the story.  While it is a work of fiction, it is based on the real events that happened on   December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. 
This book is filled with figurative language using phrases such as "lightnin' storm eyes", "mama's crinkled-up somethin's-wrong voice", and "clicks them metal things on her hands, quick and loud like the screen door slammin'."  It would make for a model text when examining ways authors "spice" up their writing by using figurative language to create a strong visual.  I have also talked a lot about using books to teach children how to create "small moments" stories.  This is yet another book that fits that category.  The entire story is about riding the bus and taking in the sights and sounds of the experience.  Aaron Reynolds does a lovely job of stretching this out over time to create a full storyline for the reader based on a small moment in the life of this young boy.  Finally, this book could be used to discuss perspective in writing.  What might another passenger's perspective be of this event?  What about the perspective of the arresting officer?  How fun it might be to have students write about a familiar experience through the eyes of someone else involved.  Or take another historical moment in our country's history and create a story about it through the eyes of a witness to the event.  

Author Aaron Reynolds has partnered with illustrator Floyd Cooper whom I just blogged about in yesterday's featured book.  And just like with all of Mr. Cooper's other books, he paints life into each page as the story moves along.  I adore the young boy in this book and I love the way Mr. Cooper has chosen to illustrate this character.  It left me wanting to sit down next to this endearing young boy and have a conversation with him.  Click on the links to learn more about Aaron Reynolds and Floyd Cooper.


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