The Bus Ride that Changed History

Pamela Duncan Edward’s The Bus Ride that Changed History: The Story of Rosa Parks highlights the importance of Rosa Parks, and her role in American history. The book introduces Parks as an ordinary woman from Alabama, who chose to keep her seat when she was asked to move by the white male bus driver. The book further explains that Park’s went to trial, and was found guilty of violation of the Jim Crow laws in Alabama. Rosa’s lawyers appealed her case to the Supreme Court, where the judges found segregation on Montgomery buses to be unconstitutional. The book concludes by paying tribute to Rosa Parks for her contributions to the Civil Rights movement.

Let me begin by saying that the book is an informative read for beginner readers. However, the author falls short in her delivery and depiction of Rosa Parks, and the Civil Rights movement. The book suggests that Rosa Parks simply got up from her seat, and the police came to escort her to jail. The text, imagery, and syntax all suggest that this moment in time was “ordinary”. The pictures show Rosa somewhat smiling when she is being escorted from the bus, and the author fails to mention the way Rosa was talked down to by the white males on the bus including the police. This hinders the child because as Victor Strasburger states in Children, Adolescence, and Media, “lack of real world knowledge can also make children more willing to believe the information they receive.” (P.11). Therefore I must take issue with the fact that the author has dumb down the situation at hand (Rosa’s arrest), in what I assume to be a fear of exposing the children to too much violence, and hatred of the past. My fear is that novice readers will read the book, and assume that this moment in history was like any other simple arrest.

After reading the picture book I am disappointed with the lack of valuable information about the Civil Rights movement. In my opinion the author should have stressed that during this time period members of the Klu Klux Klan, would torment, beat, and kill anyone who rebelled against the “law”. The author also could have informed the reader about how Rosa was demeaned, humiliated, and in prison for days. I must say the picture book is watered down to the bare minimum, but for the intended audience it will suffice.

I believe the book reflects some of the values we mentioned about the Enlightenment in class, with a modern twist. Locke’s “Some Thoughts concerning Education (1692)” Part IV states “I think they (children) should be taught to dance as soon as they are capable of learning it.” (p.1). I believe this is a motive of the author to inform young pupils about the Civil Rights movement, and one of the prominent leaders (Rosa Parks). In Edward’s defense she may have thought that giving young readers the bare minimum about Rosa Parks, and the Civil Rights movement was all that the young children would be capable of understanding at their age, since their brain is not fully developed to understand more complex things. This also ties in with the theme that ignorance is bliss (which I do not agree with). However, Edwards may have been trying to keep the children’s innocence, and purity buy not informing them about the cruel, and hateful things that occurred during this time. Gray states in “Ode Upon a Distant Prospect of Eton College” (1747), “the thoughtless day, the easy night, the spirits pure, the slumbers light.” (p.2). This exemplifies that children are pure, and blind to the ignorance, and prejudices of the world, therefore, perhaps Edwards kept the picture book light-hearted for the children’s tender souls.

An aspect that I appreciated about the book was that there are two young children who narrate the book a black boy and a white girl.  Here is the author’s modern day twist. Throughout the text the children are playing ball together, eating lunch in the park, and also drinking from the same water fountain. This subliminally exemplifies that things have changed since the Civil Rights movement. Strasburger states, “The child needs to draw inferences from implicit cues in the message.” (p18). Therefore Edwards has opened the gateway for children to grow intellectually by making inferences about the present day via the imagery.



One thought on “The Bus Ride that Changed History

  1. I think I remember reading this book as a child, and thinking back on it I can see now how it may have been a bit watered down (though of course I didn’t realize it at the time). I’d never thought of historical children’s fiction books in that way; I like your interpretation of this. Great job!

    Grade: S

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