Copyright Maurizio Quarello from Rosa’s Bus by Fabrizio Silei Darf Publishers, London

Review | Rosa’s Bus, Fabrizio Silei, illus. Maurizio A. C. Quarello | Darf Publishers

Rosa’s Bus by Fabrizio Silei, who refers to himself as a “researcher of human stories and events”, is a perfect early learning book for children from the age of seven upwards. Beautifully illustrated by Maurizio A. C. Quarello, and sensitively translated from the Italian by Siân Williams, it is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

What does Grandpa want to show Ben?
Why is Ben being told such a scary story about men in white hoods with eyeholes?
What happened to the dignified lady taken off the bus in handcuffs like a criminal?
Why did her one action and the protest that followed change history?

Many of us grown ups know that Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 when she refused to get out of her seat on a public bus to give it to a white passenger, and that her calm and resolute refusal to kowtow to a discriminatory system, triggered a bus boycott. For 382 days, black passengers chose to walk rather than ride the buses in Montgomery.

Copyright Maurizio Quarello from Rosa’s Bus by Fabrizio Silei. Darf Publishers, London
Copyright Maurizio Quarello from Rosa’s Bus by Fabrizio Silei Darf Publishers, London

Grandpa knows the story well because he was on that bus that day. He wants his little nephew to grasp the importance of showing courage in the face of prejudice, and how ordinary people can change the world.

Rosa’s Bus is an excellent way to pass on to new generations the story of how and why this major event in the Civil Rights movement – led by a young pastor named Martin Luther King, Jr – is relevant all the way to the recent #BlackLivesMatter global movement. And it is a good book with which to draw young readers into a discussion about right and wrong,  bigotry, and strength of character. 

Rosa’s Bus is a gem to be read and re-read to children. The relevance of the Jim Crow laws and the Klu Klux Klan come across in a way that is easy for kids to understand. As do Rosa’s bravery and willingness to question the status quo of the segregation laws that made life very different for people simply because of the colour of their skin.

Although any sort of economic downturn is felt within the publishing industry, in a market saturated with so many offerings, quality matters more now than ever. Enterprising publishers who continue to bring fresh and diverse new voices in translation to young British readers setting off on their literary journeys can only do well by continuing to publish illuminating and beautifully-produced books such as Rosa’s Bus.

“Writing translated from other languages makes you see things differently,” Daniel Hahn, editor of The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature

Rosa’s Bus by Fabrizio Silei, illus. Maurizio Quarello | Translated from the Italian by Siân Williams | 42pp £13.99 ISBN 978 1850773405 December 2022 | Darf Publishers, London

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georgia DC

Bilingual editor, rewriter, French-to-English translator. Has written for 3am magazine, words without borders, The Independent, The Lady, Banipal, Prospect Magazine, Times Literary Supplement. Currently writes for The BookBlast Diary. Founder (1997) of London-based writing agency BookBlast.

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