Saturday, January 16, 2010

children's book review: Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice is an illuminating piece of nonfiction. Phillip Hoose tells the story without condescending, but he also doesn't assume the reader knows anything about his story. As an adult reader, I appreciated the deep background provided in sidebars.

From the first pages, which are largely pictures illuminating life in the South in the era of Jim Crow laws, I was wowed. The book reads almost like a documentary; Hoose uses photos, text boxes, background, newspaper text and interviews to paint a vivid picture not only of Colvin's life, but these years in Montgomery, Alabama.

Who is Claudette Colvin? She was a high school girl who refused to give up her seat for a white passenger. She did it nine months before Rosa Parks, and she was arrested. Part of what I love about this book is the honesty, which is at times brutal. Rosa Parks is an American hero, and so many of us growing up being wowed by her bravery. This book takes us back to the way it really happened, which isn't as simple. It's not a nice little story, but it's real. As a librarian firmly in the "teach the truth" camp, I loved this book. Some teachers and parents may react adversely to it. She cooperated with Phillip Hoose, who interviewed her numerous times for this book.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice is an important book. It's a book I found illuminating as an adult reader. It won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Pages: 144 pages
Publication: January 2009
Source: my local public library, but you can also buy it

1 comment:

  1. See, now I did not recognize her name at all although I did have a faint memory stirring of a girl who preceded Rosa Parks. This definitely sounds like something that would make a good addition to libraries and classrooms.


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