Award-Winning Books Picture Book Challenge 2011 Picture Books PoC Reading Challenge 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Rosa by Nikki Giovanni and Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Our Nonfiction Monday contribution this week is the lovely picture book by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier entitled Rosa, a Caldecott Honor Book and Winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. Nonfiction Monday round-up post is at Ana’s Nonfiction Blog.

The story behind a Quiet Revolution. One of the wonderful things I love about picture books is its powerful ability to share snippets from history in a way that would endear itself to children and adults alike. Through compelling narrative and breathtaking illustrations and art work, historical figures are transformed into living and breathing beings.

Photo of Rosa Parks from her official website - click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Most people may have known about the incident in the bus and the way that people rallied behind Rosa to show their support. Yet, people may not have known that Rosa Parks was considered to be one of the best seamstresses in Montgomery and how committed she was to her work and her family:

The needle and thread flew through her hands like the gold spinning from Rumpelstiltskin’s loom. The other seamstresses would tease Rosa Parks and say she used magic. Rosa would laugh. “Not magic. Just concentration,” she would say. Some days she would skip lunch to be finished on time.

She was not even supposed to have been on that bus. One could call it fate, chance, or circumstance – this singular incident (which may not have happened had she left work during her usual off-hours) changed the face of history.

Inner Strength and Soul Force in the Face of Ugliness and Pain. I could just imagine how the White Bus Driver must have felt when Rosa Parks refused to leave her seat even after he bellowed “I said give me those seats!” – and this is despite the fact that she was sitting on what was called the “Neutral Section” – the area where both Blacks or Whites could sit.

It would be good to share this book to our young children who may be taking the little things that they enjoy each day for granted. They may not have known of a time when people were required to enter the bus from the rear (simply because they are of a different race) – the back section of the bus exclusively for “colored people” – that onceuponatime, there were so-called “colored” entrances, “colored” drinking fountains and even “colored” taxis.

Rosa Parks’ refusal to give in, to move, to budge caused her arrest:

Photo taken from Rosa Parks Website - click on the image to be taken to the websource.

As Mrs. Parks sat waiting for the police to come, she thought of all the brave men and women, boys and girls who stood tall for civil rights. She recited in her mind the 1954 Brown versus Board of Education decision, in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that separate is “inherently unequal.”

Quiet Force.

She sighed as she realized she was tired. Not tired from work but tired of putting white people first. Tired of stepping off side-walks to let white people pass, tired of eating at separate lunch counters and learning at separate schools.

What are Neutral Sections? As I was reading Rosa, the first thought that entered my mind was: What exactly are ‘neutral sections?’ In this book, it is clear that this space is where both blacks and whites could sit together. Does this mean that most of the spaces that we navigate in right now are “neutral sections?” Given multiracial identities and transcultural realities – these things are often taken for granted.

Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King - click on the image to be taken to the websource.

We do know however, that despite the ‘neutrality’ of the spaces we move in – some places are still more ‘neutral’ than others. And so we pick the battles that matter (similar to what Rosa has done), stand our ground with quiet dignity, and allow ‘soul force’ to be the source of our strength.

Teacher Resources and Links. Given that this is an award-winning book, I found a few resources that would help teachers use this book in the classroom. Scholastic has prepared this lesson plan that provides recommendations on possible student activities and related activities that would extend students’ appreciation of the book. More importantly there is a 9-paged downloadable lesson plan created by the Rhode Island Project that can be enjoyed by teachers. Detailed instructional procedures are provided alongside recommended assessment tools for teachers.

Click on the image to be taken to the websource

About Nikki Giovanni. Nikki is an award-winning poet, activist, writer, commentator, and educator. She was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and grew up in Cincinnati Ohio. She is a faculty member at Virginia Tech where she is a University Distinguished Professor. She is the author of more than two dozen books, including poetry volumes, illustrated children’s books, and collections of essays (source here). Click here to be taken to her official website.

Bryan Collier‘s bio:

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Bryan Collier grew up in Pocomoke, Maryland, on the lower Eastern Shore of the state, the youngest of six children. His interest in art started early. “At home and at school, I was encouraged to read. I remember the first books with pictures that I read by myself were The Snow Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. I liked the stories, but I really liked the pictures.” 

If you want to know more about Bryan, this is his official website.

PictureBook Challenge Update: 96 of 120

PoC Reading Challenge Update: 41 (25)

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni and Illustrated by Bryan Collier. Square Fish, Henry Holt and Company, 2005. Book borrowed from the NIE Library.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

11 comments on “Nonfiction Monday: Rosa by Nikki Giovanni and Illustrated by Bryan Collier

  1. A beautiful book for a brave woman.


    • I agree. It’s great to have chanced upon this picture book on book sale while I was in Manila. I hope that your move is going smoothly. 🙂


      • This is my first international move and so I really can’t compare it to other moves. However, it seems to be going well. But I will be greatly relieved to have all of it done so I can officially relax and enjoy my new home.

        And the book is yet another great find!


  2. Liked the discussion on what are neutral sections. Given the recent troubles in the UK, one wonders if some “neutral sections” have reverted to no-go zones?

    Great teacher resources for this excellent biography. Often find reluctant readers can be teased out of some of their reluctance by a good biography!


    • I guess I had at the back of my mind (recent riots and such) – plus a few more, on top of that. Makes one reflect on the many grand things people have achieved and learned over the years – only for them to unlearn it with a careless remark, a nonchalant gesture, or just plain ignorance. And yeah, are there truly ‘neutral’ zones – and are they really good? Or bad? Neither? 😉


  3. I seem to be doing a fair bit of reading about American history these days especially that focused on the civil rights movement. Maybe a little atypical (for me, anyways) being Canadian. Have enjoyed several related titles. This one sounds like one more I’ll have to track down.
    Thanks for the recommendation.
    Apples with Many Seeds


    • Hi Tammy, thanks for visiting and dropping by. I particularly enjoy biographies in picture book format. Both author/illustrator would have to be very discerning which snapshots of reality to present – that in itself, is interesting.


  4. I love stories that tell you little details not many people knew, such as Rosa being a dedicated seamstress.Thank you for posting today!


  5. Pingback: Carnival of Children’s Literature and Round-up for August |

  6. Pingback: [Monday Reading] Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King As Children: Fishing and Roller-Skating – Gathering Books

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