Saturday, September 18, 2010

Busing Brewster - Richard Michelson

Illustrated by R. G. Roth
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
24 pgs.
Rating: 5 (Yup, this is a good one)
Endpapers: covered with stick-like figures playing on a school playground (pale, pale sage green)

Set in the 1970's, when schools were segretated and busing students far across town was used to begin to desegrate the schools. Brewster and his slightly-older brother Bryan are not as excited as their mom when they discover that they will be bused to a previously-all-white school, having to get up an hour earlier in the morning to go the distance. And when they get there, they are greeted by protestors, rocks being thrown, and nasty white classmates. Before school even begins on the first day, the brothers are put into detention in the library with "freckle-face", a white kid who'd heckled them and precipitated them getting caught arguing.

Well. By the time they leave the library they've made friends with the librarian (who then initiantes Brewster into the wonderful world of books and reading) and also with Freckle-face. When they leave school, however, a friendly wave goodbye to their new friend is ignored, because he's being picked up by his father, who is saying something derogatory about the desegreation - so young readers can see where the bigotry and hatred are coming from, and how it keeps gathering speed.

Great history lesson for kids - my kids - who, luckily, have no clue about the bigotry and racism so prevalent in the 60s and 70s. I only wish I could say it's gone....but it has to be better than it was. The Author's Note at the end gives additional information on the history and background of the story.

The illustrations are great. It's somewhat difficult to describe them. Cut paper. Sponged stencils. Tiny, tiny repetetive patterns. Pale watercolor-brushed lines. I'm only guessing at all this, but I love the mixed media look. The colors are muted, lots of grays and muddied greens, mustards, clays.

Great book. The more I think about it the more I like it. Storytelling in a positive way. Great protagonist. Kids doing real things, especially at the playground. Super illustrations. Yippee!

No comments: