Back of the Bus
written by Aaron Reynolds; illustrated by Floyd Cooper
(Philomel Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library
It's December 1, 1955 and a young African American boy is sitting with his mother at the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. He is playing with a tiger's eye marble, rolling it on the grooves of the aisle. As the bus slows down, the marble gets away and is picked up at the front of the bus by a friendly face, Mrs. Parks from the tailor shop. She kindly rolls it back and the bus takes off again. Soon the bus comes to a stop and the gruff bus driver instructs the African American riders that they have to move to the back. The boy notices that the bus is sitting longer than usual and asks his mother why. She tells him "Hush, child." and he quietly sits. As he watches, he sees that the source of the delay is Mrs. Parks. Her quiet confidence and courage in the face of a policeman gives him strength as well. As she is led away, he realizes that perhaps something has changed for the better at that moment.
Back of the Bus would be a good book to use as an introduction to the Civil Rights movement. It is also a rich text for teaching inference to older students. The actions and words of the mother carry a deeper meaning than a cursory glance would suggest. I also like how the author uses the point of view of a young child to teach about a historical moment. Back of the Bus could be used for a lot of different purposes in comprehension instruction and therefore makes it a valuable addition to your mentor text collection.