JO. S. KITTINGER
is an author to meet in Alabama.
(My apologies – I had my typical link issues tonight so you may need to type in Jo’s name into your search engine.)
I met the always bizee Jo S. Kittinger, through the second home that is teacher/friend/cheerleader
to writers & illustrators working on stories for the kiddos, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Jo is a regional advisor in this group for the Southern Breeze (GA, MS & AL & for Florida, a bit of the roof of the state.)
She is a much-published non-fiction & fiction picture book writer.
She is also an expert photographer. This fall, something new pictures her world.
She presents her debut literary picture book. It’s about an event in modern U.S. history close to many hearts.
These questions today are about, ROSA’S BUS, for the Calkins Creek imprint of Boyds Mills Press.
It is illustrated by Steven Walker in an arresting style that
makes me think of the grand Works Progress Administration post office &
government building murals.
What do you want readers to feel about the bus that Rosa Parks rode?
When Americans gaze at the Liberty Bell, I imagine they are filled
with a sense of patriotic pride in the freedoms we all enjoy. I would
love for readers to feel the same way about Rosa’s Bus.
Did you always know that the bus, #2857, still existed? Would you
share the story of how you found this historic Civil Rights era icon in Michigan?
No, I was not aware of the existence of the actual bus, #2857, until a
few years ago. I was contacted by Donnie Williams, the Georgia man who
owned the bus before it was sold to the Henry Ford Museum.
Williams had written an adult book about the bus and the Civil Rights
movement, THE THUNDER OF ANGELS, and his editor was interested in a
children’s book about the bus. Donnie acknowledged that he was not a
children’s author, so he contacted me. I was able to interview
Williams and was intrigued. Unfortunately, the project did not work
out with his editor and then Donnie passed away. I decided the subject
was worth pursuing and continued work on the story.
What is your connection with civil rights? And that era the bus represents?
I feel a deep connection with the history of the Civil Rights movement, having grown up during those
tense years in the south. Visiting our Birmingham Civil Rights
Institute is always a moving experience. They have a similar bus from
that era on exhibit, in conjunction with the Freedom Riders.
What do you want young readers to understand, more than anything else,
about the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott?
Freedom is not free. The bus boycott was a difficult year for all
those who participated. But black people were determined to go the
distance, to stick with the boycott until the changes were achieved. I
think it is also very important to realize that non-violent means CAN
be an effective avenue to change.
What is it about writing for young readers on historical topics that
especially speaks to you?
When I was a child, history seemed dry, uninteresting and unimportant.
I hope that by presenting history in an interesting way I can help
children realize that there is much to be learned from what has
already happened in our world. We can avoid repeating mistakes if we
are willing to learn from history.
Can you please share a little bit about artist Steven Walker and his
evocative picture book illustrations for your story?
I wish I’d had the privilege of meeting Walker and discussing his
work, but editors like to keep authors and illustrators separate for
the most part. But I was very pleased that Walker was chosen for this
project. He is primarily a fine artist, rather than an illustrator, so
I was very curious about what approach he might take with my story.
You can see more of his work at http://www.stevenwalkerstudios.com. I
must admit that I was taken aback for just a second by the stoic
nature of his work. But after reflection, I realized that he’d
perfectly captured a mood that I’m sure was accurate for the
situation. As an African American, he added a perspective that I’d
only been able to imagine. I’m very grateful for his contribution to
Many thanks, Jo.
I’m sure readers will be at their libraries & bookstores, asking for