Monday, November 16, 2009

Phil Hoose: Claudette Colvin (up for the National Book Award!)

On Wednesday, the National Book Awards will be announced, and this year I'm crossing my fingers for a fabulous book in the "Young Peoples Literature" category by Phillip Hoose, who just happens to be from Maine! (And if you stop by Cynthia Lord's blog, you can read the story of how I unexpectedly got to get up on stage and sing with him last night.)

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice is the true story of a 15 year old girl who refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger nine months before Rosa Parks made her historic protest. Claudette Colvin was jailed, ostracized from her classmates, shunned by her community, and yet she persevered. She fought her charges in court (and lost), and later went on to be a key witness in the court case that outlawed segregation on buses and ended the Montgomery bus boycott. She is a truly inspiring unsung hero.

Phil Hoose's book is written partly in the voice of Claudette Colvin, gleaned from hours of personal interviews. She describes exactly what it felt like to hear the jail cell click shut, and to look out from the witness stand in the middle of her trial. Hoose fills in historical details about the Montgomery bus boycott and the events that led up to the trial. It's a fascinating, gripping book that sheds new light on the civil rights movement in Montgomery. A must read.

Here is a video where you can hear some of the story in Colvin's own words. Whether this book wins a National Book Award, I hope it continues to receive recognition and acclaim for many years to come.

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