Parents' Guide to

Rosa

By Matt Berman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 4+

Spectacular illustrations spotlight Parks' historic protest.

Rosa Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

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It's easy to see why ROSA won both the Coretta Scott King Award and a Caldecott Honor -- the illustrations are spectacular. Bold yet detailed, they show Rosa Parks as she was -- not an old lady too tired to get up, but a strong young woman tired of oppression. In paintings that combine watercolor and collage, realistic images of people are set against slightly abstract backgrounds with skewed perspectives. The pictures radiate heat, light, and power.

Poet Nikki Giovanni's text is at times preachy, however, and Parks is portrayed as perhaps more than a mere mortal -- at times Bryan Collier's art suggests a halo above her. Though the book is aimed at 4- to 8-year-olds, some of the story will go over their heads, and many things are unexplained. What is the NAACP? What happened to Parks after the police came? There is a vivid picture of a cop confronting her, but her actual arrest is not mentioned. And she virtually disappears from the book halfway through. Various news events, such as the lynching of Emmet Till and freeing of his killers, are mentioned but not explained; an author's note would have been welcome. These events can be used as openings for parents to discuss them in more detail with their kids, but the book on its own may be confusing. Still, this is a gorgeously illustrated introduction to a watershed event.

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