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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Busing Brewster, written by Richard Michelson and illustrated by R. G. Roth. Knopf, Random House. 2010. $21.99 ages 6 and up

"By the time we turn the corner, Jules is already waiting at the bus stop. Bryan drops my hand and runs ahead. The bus turns right at the Jewish cemetery. We pass a bar and then a Catholic church. I can't wait till we get to Central. Maybe I'll learn how to swim. I wish Mama had bought me a bathing suit."

I love the endpapers...they are so inviting and give us a little insight into school activities and Brewster himself. The fact that there is a library due date stamp posted in a few places (the dates are September 1974) gets my mind thinking that the library is going to play a part and also sets the story at a certain time for the reader. It's a big city with boys on the run and we are soon introduced to Bryan and Brewster. When Bryan heads off with Jules and Big Earl, Brewster has no concerns. There is much to keep him occupied. An errant ball through a nearby window has Brewster thinking about grade one and what is in store for him at Franklin.

Imagine his surprise when Mama announces that the boys will be attending Central...the white school! Getting up early to catch the bus is not their idea of fun, but Mama is reassuring. Brewster is excited as they approach the school. Sign waving, angry parents meet the bus, with warnings that this is a 'white only' stop. Rocks are thrown through the bus windows...a sure sign of further trouble. Not an auspicious welcome on his first day of school there, is it?

Detention over a hallway ruckus lands both boys in the library for the day. Brewster is enthralled with the book-filled walls and there he finds a kindred spirit...Miss O'Grady. She reads great stories, gives good advice and evokes confidence in a young and impressionable boy and has him quickly believing that he can do anything, maybe even be president someday.

Brewster is one of the many children who were part of the 'forced busing' permitted by the Supreme Court in the early 1970s. Though it failed in many ways, it did provide opportunities for some children that they would not have had. It is amazing that Richard Michelson wrote his story in 2003, five years before a black man became president of the United States. Who knew then that sucn a momentous event would occur before this heartwarming tale was published?

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