Learn more about CCRLS
Reading recommendations from Novelist
Online learning resources
Cover image for Back of the bus
Back of the bus
Publication Information:
New York : Philomel/Penguin, ©2009.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : illustrations ; 24 x 28 cm
From the back of the bus, an African American child watches the arrest of Rosa Parks.
Added Author:


Call Number

On Order



It seems like any other winter day in Montgomery, Alabama. Mama and child are riding where they're supposed to--way in the back of the bus. The boy passes the time by watching his marble roll up and down the aisle with the motion of the bus, until from way up front a big commotion breaks out. He can't see what's going on, but he can see the policeman arrive outside and he can see Mama's chin grow strong. "There you go, Rosa Parks," she says, "stirrin' up a nest of hornets. Tomorrow all this'll be forgot." But they both know differently.

With childlike words and powerful illustrations, Aaron Reynolds and Coretta Scott King medalist Floyd Cooper recount Rosa Parks' act of defiance through the eyes of a child--who will never forget.

Author Notes

Aaron Reynolds is the author of the Caldecott Honor Medal-winning Creepy Carrots , illustrated by Peter Brown, which was also a New York Times bestseller. Among his other books for young readers are Chicks and Salsa ; Nerdy Birdy ; and the graphic novel Caveboy Dave. He lives in Illinois.

Floyd Cooper (www.floydcooper.com) always dreamed of becoming an artist and has developed into a highly-acclaimed creator of books for young readers. Among the books he has either written & illustrated on his own or illustrated for others are Jump! (From the Life of Michael Jordan ); Max and the Tag-Along Moon; The Blacker the Berry , for which he was awarded the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration; and I Have Heard of a Land , for which he received a Coretta Scott King Honor Award. Floyd lives in New Jersey with his family. Follow him on Twitter @floydcooper4 .

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-4-Cooper's illustrations are the strongest aspect of this book, a fictional accounting of Parks's famous refusal to give up her seat, as told from the viewpoint of a little boy on the bus. Reynolds writes in free verse that is a tad overdone with Southern dialect, and the colloquialisms ("crammed like lima beans" and "sittin'.like a turnip pile") are a stretch. Cooper's work, however, is powerful for its subtlety; he has incorporated the likenesses of a couple of high-profile civil rights activists in the crowd of passengers on the bus, symbolizing the continuum of mighty figures that began with the petite woman. One of the most powerful images is that of Parks by herself; Cooper has captured her resoluteness simply in the proud jut of her chin. Problematic styling aside, Reynolds does a satisfactory job of capturing a turning point in our nation's history from an anonymous but vital perspective. Coupled with Cooper's rich paintings, this is a noteworthy reflection on the actions of a single individual in turning the tide of segregation.-Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

This sterling collaboration views Rosa Parks's 1955 refusal to give up her bus seat through the eyes of a perceptive boy seated with his mother in the rear of the bus. Early on, the child rolls a treasured marble up the aisle and Parks good-naturedly shoots it back to him. He tucks the marble safely away when the bus fills with passengers and he senses trouble up front: "Some folks look back, givin' us angry eyes. `We do somethin' wrong, Mama?' I say all soft." Reynolds's (Superhero School) lyrical yet forceful text conveys the narrator's apprehension and Parks's calm resolve, which inspires the boy. "[S]he's sittin' right there, her eyes all fierce like a lightnin' storm, like maybe she does belong up there. And I start thinkin' maybe she does too." Cooper's (Willie and the All-Stars) filmy oil paintings are characterized by a fine mistlike texture, which results in warm, lifelike portraits that convincingly evoke the era, the intense emotional pitch of this incident, and the everyday heroism it embodied. Ages 6-8. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

An African American boy and his mother are on the same bus as Rosa Parks when she takes her famous stand. The story, told from the boy's perspective, shows that although he doesn't understand everything that's going on, he may have a glimmer of understanding and a dream of the future. Reynolds's poetic narrative and Cooper's warm and expressive oil illustrations sustain the premise. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

A child's-eye view of the day Rosa Parks would not give up her seat. On Dec. 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Ala., a boy and his mom sit at the back of the bus, and he amuses himself by rolling his tiger's-eye marble down the bus aisle. "Mrs. Parks from the tailor shop" rolls it back to him. Soon the bus is packed, but it does not move. The boy, acutely sensitive to the tone of his mother's and the driver's voices, wonders what is happening, but he sees that, like his mama, Parks has her "strong chin." She's taken away, the bus goes home and the boy holds his brown-and-golden marble to the light, thinking he does not have to hide it anymore. The language is rhythmic and inflected with dropped gs, with slightly overdone description, but clearly explains to very young children Parks's refusal to give up her seat at the front of the bus to a white man. Cooper uses his "subtractive method" on oil color, in which illustrations are rubbed out or lightened, making the pictures glow with burnished grace. (Picture book. 5-9) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Rosa Parks' defiant December 1955 confrontation on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, is told from the fictionalized viewpoint of a child who is there. In free verse, he describes riding the bus with his mama ( We're sittin' right there where we're supposed to / way in back ) and rolling a marble down the aisle to the front, where smiling Mrs. Parks rolls it back to him. Then, as people pile on the bus, the driver tells Parks to move to the back. She refuses, and the driver calls the police. The boy knows . . . she don't belong up front like that, but then he realizes maybe she does too. The child's innocent viewpoint personalizes the well-known historical event, while Cooper's oil paintings, expertly rendered in his signature subtractive style, show the crowded bus as well as stunning portraits of Parks, the driver, the boy, and his mother as they decide that they are not gonna hide no more. --Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2010 Booklist