Because Claudette

Dial. Jan. 2022. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593326404.
Gr 2-5–On March 2, 1955, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give her bus seat to a white person, nine months before Rosa Parks’s famous act of civil disobedience. Parks befriended the young woman and encouraged her to get involved with the NAACP youth division. The author frames the narrative with the “Because” construct, showing how the civil rights movement was a series of acts of civil disobedience, all part of a larger movement to abolish segregation. Baptiste successfully emonstrates how the decision made by one young person reverberated through history. Cameos by Martin Luther King, Jr. and less-widely celebrated Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith reinforce how it was the collective work of many unsung people that led to victory in civil rights efforts. Engle’s illustrations, rendered in acrylic underpainting and oils on textured vellum paper, are stunning. These exude a sense of warmth and unity. Especially powerful is a spread in which Colvin is understanding her place in history as one of many strong women who have “caused trouble” in the name of freedom. In the author’s note, Baptiste explains how she was inspired to write this riveting picture book biography when she heard Fred Gray, civil rights attorney and Colvin’s lawyer, say that the Montgomery bus boycott wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the teen’s influence. Back matter includes materials for further reading.
VERDICT A gorgeous tribute to a young Black activist that will inspire many readers. Add this to all picture book biography shelves. Luminous.

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