Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Looking for Newbery - Claudette Colvin

There has been much buzz about Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose in regard to its merits as a Newbery candidate. Fuse 8 has put it on her list of Newbery predictions. Nina and Jonathan of Heavy Medal both had this book score as a Newbery honor book in their recent mock Newbery discussion. Jonathan actually has lauded this book as deserving of the Newbery medal, not just the honor.

With this kind of support behind it, I felt compelled to read this book before the announcements are made this coming Monday. I think one of the reasons Claudette Colvin is getting so much press is that it is a nonfiction book that many feel qualifies for the Newbery, and that hasn't happened in quite some time.

I felt that as a nonfiction text it was amazing. For one, I wasn't familiar with the name Claudette Colvin. When I think of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycotts, I think of Rosa Parks. Turns out Claudette refused to give up her seat long before Rosa did. This book comes with a rich history of which I was not aware.

The literary device that made this a page-turner for me was the way Hoose intersperses facts about that moment in history with anecdotal tales from Claudette Colvin herself. It makes the story far more personal, and I felt more invested in what actually happened to this young girl.

I think it comes down to one's definition of "distinguished". I absolutely loved this book -- the historical facts, Claudette's narrative, the photographs, the insight into Claudette as a person. Is it a Newbery hopeful? Others way more knowledgeable than me think so. I guess Monday's Newbery announcements will tell the tale.

Regardless of where I stand on Claudette Colvin as a Newbery winner, I think it is a fabulous nonfiction text that middle grade children and up need to read for a deeper understanding of a time when segregation existed, and asking a black person to give up a seat on the bus meant nothing to a white person other than an inconvenience. Many brave people stood up for what they believed when doing so was not easy. Claudette Colvin is most definitely a hero, flawed at times, but a hero nonetheless.


  1. Karen, oddly enough I had the opposite reaction. Since it was getting so much play and won the NBA - I haven't wanted to read it. I've been carrying it around since Nov and am about a third into it. I will finish it before Mon though!

  2. I also like the fact that this book for children makes a large contribution to the historical record! Very cool. I could definitely see it winning the Newbery.

  3. So, reading between the lines, it seems like you really liked this book, but aren't ready to endorse it yourself as a Newbery Medal winner. Am I right?

    It does sound excellent, and the format reminds me of a Jane Yolen book I read with my girls this week called "Naming Liberty," about the crafting of the Statue of Liberty, in which its history is interspersed with the tale of a Russian immigrant girl and her family coming to America.

    In our homeschooling adventure, we will be coming to the Civil Rights movement in a few months. Claudette Colvin sounds like a great book for us to explore!

    Thanks for visiting my blog, BTW.

  4. This book is always checked out at the library and if it wins something on the Newbery list - a fair guess - I'll never see it. In fact, I think I'll put it on hold right now.