Standing Up by Sitting Down

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I am Rosa Parks
By Brad Meltzer
Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
(Dial Books, 2014, New York, $12.99)

Everyone knows how Rosa Parks, an unassuming African-American seamstress, refused to give up her bus seat for a white man in Montgomery Alabama in 1956. This simple act got her arrested, sparked a citywide bus boycott, and invigorated the civil rights movement.  In I am Rosa ParksBrad Meltzer and illustrator Christopher Eliopoulos tell Parks’ story for the youngest readers and listeners.

At first glance, Eliopoulos’ cartoonish illustrations appear almost too adorable for a book about civil rights. However, this book, part of the Ordinary People Change the World series that the author-illustrator team created for Dial, represent a unique approach to picture-book biography. In Eliopoulos’ illustrations, Rosa Parks always appears small and childlike – even when she commits her famous act of civil disobedience in her forties. This makes her defiance all the more remarkable and reminds young readers that even children can stand up for themselves and others. Indeed, Meltzer’s first-person narrative highlights Parks’ preternatural moral courage.  Instead of concentrating solely on her role in the bus boycott, Meltzer explores how she stood up to a white bully – and his angry mother – as a child and how she worked for civil rights long before the bus incident.  

I am Rosa Parks is an engaging introduction to Parks and the civil rights movement. It also reminds readers that while most of us cannot lead social movements, we can all demand fairness for ourselves and others.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

 

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