cover image If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks

If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks

Faith Ringgold. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81892-9

Underdeveloped poetic conceits short-circuit this profile of civil rights activist Rosa Parks. Marcie, an African-American child, is waiting for the bus to school when a strange bus pulls up; for some reason, she boards it. There is no driver, but the bus itself talks. It informs Marcie that she is riding on ""the Rosa Parks bus,"" the very vehicle that Parks had been riding in 1955 when, refusing to give up her seat to a white man, she helped trigger the Montgomery Bus Boycott. (In a bizarre irony, Marcie is made to give up her seat, which is ostensibly intended for Parks.) The bus then recounts Parks's childhood, education and tireless work as a civil rights activist; Marcie's fellow passengers serve as chorus, intermittently chiming in, ""Amen! Amen!... We know, we were there."" The account is full of hard-hitting information but suffers from confusing prose (""The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the beginning of a national movement in which people of every race organized protests against segregation in their own towns""). Finally, Parks boards the bus, and it emerges that Marcie's fellow riders include Parks's husband and Martin Luther King Jr.; in a throwaway ending, Marcie debarks at her school (""I can't wait to tell my class about this!""). Ringgold's paintings help animate this uneven tale, but a depiction of the bus with facial features, hair and hat compromises her powerful folk-art style. Other picture books chronicle Parks's life more lucidly; this is a disappointingly bumpy ride. Ages 5-9. (Nov.)