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