Plot and Pacing
Back of the Bus by Aaron Reynolds
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Publisher: Puffin Books
Word Count: 750 (estimate)
A boy and his mother are on their way home on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. But their ride home is no ordinary ride. Rosa Parks is on the bus this day…
This story is told from the point-of-view of the boy as he rides in the bus, doing things a boy would do to pass time.
The first spread sets the setting of the story…
Winter’s here in Montgomery, but I got the window down
and a warm breeze blowin’ in…
We’re sittin’ right where we’re suppose to –
way in back.
I love that it is not just winter - there is a warm breeze in Alabama.
As the bus travels, the boy takes out his marble – a tiger’s eye – and starts to play. His marble rolls up front to Mrs. Parks who smiles and rolls it back. But Mama is not happy, so he holds onto his marble.
When the bus stops, people pile on. The bus driver tells the black riders in front to move to the back. Someone doesn’t move, and the police are called. Conflict has begun. The bus sits as the people wait for the police to come.
The story continues at a pace that keeps the reader engaged. Anticipation is created on the bus as everyone awaits the arrival of the police.
And Rosa just sits… Reynolds uses strong words to reinforce the atmosphere of the plot.
her eyes all fierce like a lightnin’ storm
The reader becomes that boy sitting and observing everything that is happening. His emotions are shown in these words…
‘cuz I’m getting shaky legs.
Rosa is taken away, the bus starts moving, and people sit. But there is a change…
and the air ain’t warm no more.
Beautiful wording lets the reader know that the feeling on the bus is now cold. The bus conflict is resolved with Rosa’s arrest. This does not end the conflict of the boy who knows more troubles are coming. But because she stood up to the police, the boy now feels strong!
But instead of feelin’ all shaky, I feel a little strong.
Like Mama’s chin.
This book is an outstanding example of plot and pacing.