Richard Michelson has written a thoughtful, intelligent picture book about the a young African-American boy and his brother who are bussed to Central the "white school." (Little Rock Central was a High School, this Central is an elementary school.) Richard Michelson's Busing Brewster is about a heavy topic, but while it does not shy away from the negative experience of the boys, neither does it pass judgment on the busing policy.
For the most part, illustrator R. G. Roth illustrates the city at the beginning and end of the book, evoking the urban landscape with spare playgrounds surrounded by chain link fences, brick walls, brownstone stoops and city lights out a bedroom window. Brewster and his friends play stick ball, a classic city streets game (with which my husband is obsessed). I also really liked the two page illustration of the school bus passing through the city, accompanied by Brewster's observation that the bus was passing a Jewish cemetery and a Catholic church. This not only suggests how central to the community the bussing event was, but that a diverse community does not just mean black and white.
An author's note at the end of the book will help children place the story in a wider context. The story also includes a wonderful hip-hip-hooray for librarians, which I thought was a nice touch. It's a well-done book that deserves to be included in any study about diversity in our schools.
Conversation with the author (and lots of artwork from the book) at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
Read an interview with the author at Cynsations.
Read Rasco from RIF's take on the book.
Visit the author's website.
Big Kid: I could be president, too. [Brewster wants to grow up to be the president.]