Rosa by Nikki Giovanni and Bryan Collier

Grade 3-5–Rosa Parks's personal story moves quickly into a summary of the Civil Rights movement in this striking picture book. Parks is introduced in idealized terms. She cares for her ill mother and is married to one of the best barbers in the county. Sewing in an alterations department, Rosa Parks was the best seamstress. Her needle and thread flew through her hands like the gold spinning from Rumpelstiltskin's loom. Soon the story moves to her famous refusal to give up her seat on the bus, but readers lose sight of her as she waits to be arrested. Giovanni turns to explaining the response of the Women's Political Caucus, which led to the bus boycott in Montgomery. A few events of the movement are interjected–the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the aftermath and reactions to the murder of Emmett Till, the role of Martin Luther King, Jr., as spokesperson. Collier's watercolor and collage scenes are deeply hued and luminous, incorporating abstract and surreal elements along with the realistic figures. Set on colored pages, these illustrations include an effective double foldout page with the crowd of successful walkers facing a courthouse representing the 1956 Supreme Court verdict against segregation on the buses. Many readers will wonder how it all went for Parks after her arrest, and there are no added notes. Purposeful in its telling, this is a handsome and thought-provoking introduction to these watershed acts of civil disobedience.–Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
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Classroom Implications:
"...She was tired. Not tired from work, but tired of putting white people first..." This line captures the essence of this book; a book that not only captures Rosa's political role, but illustrates her life as a woman. Giovanni and Collier are a must for an in-depth study of African American history and the civil rights movement. Not just a book for February, Rosa is a must for library shelves throughout the grades.

Skills and Strategies
  • Nonfiction reading--biography
  • Determining Importance
  • Predicting
  • Questioning
  • Note-taking

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