2009 National Book Award Winner,
Young People's Literature

Phillip Hoose

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Melanie Kroupa Books, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Phillip Hoose receiving with 2009 National Book Award in Young People's Literature.

Video from the 2009 National Book Awards Finalist Reading

Photo credit: Portland Press-Herald


How could we not know of this courageous teenager and her remarkable contribution to the U.S. civil rights movement? Phillip Hoose’s riveting and intelligent portrait incorporates photographs and other galvanizing primary source illustrations, as well as Claudette Colvin’s own voice, to draw the reader fully into 1950s Montgomery, Alabama. Compellingly written and skillfully structured, this important work captures a time and place of struggle, oppression, and resistance as it reaffirms Colvin’s hard-earned and nearly lost place in history.


On March 2, 1955, a slim, bespectacled teenager refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Shouting “It’s my constitutional right!” as police dragged her off to jail, Claudette Colvin decided she’d had enough of the Jim Crow segregation laws that had angered and puzzled her since she was a child.

But instead of being celebrated, as Rosa Parks would be when she took the same stand nine months later, Claudette found herself shunned by many of her classmates and dismissed as an unfit role model by the black leaders of Montgomery. Undaunted, she dared to challenge segregation again a year later—as one of the four plaintiffs in the landmark busing case, Browder v. Gayle.


Mr. Hoose is an award-winning author of books, essays, stories, songs, and articles. Although he first wrote for adults, he turned his attention to children and young adults in part to keep up with his own daughters.

His children’s book Hey, Little Ant (Tricycle Press, 1998), inspired by his daughter Ruby and co-authored by his daughter Hannah, received a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.

His It’s Our World, Too!: Stories of Young People Who Are Making a Difference (Little, Brown, 1993) won a Christopher Award for “artistic excellence in books affirming the highest values of the human spirit.”

His most recent book, The Race to Save the Lord God Bird (Melanie Kroupa Books / Farrar Straus Giroux, 2004), received the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, and was named a Top Ten American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults among many additional honors. We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History (Melanie Kroupa Books / Farrar Straus Giroux, 2001) was a finalist for the National Book Award. In addition, it was dubbed a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and an International Reading Association Teacher’s Choice.

Phillip Hoose was born in South Bend, Indiana, and grew up in the towns of South Bend, Angola, and Speedway, Indiana. He was educated at Indiana University and the Yale School of Forestry. He lives in Portland, Maine.


Phillip Hoose's Official Website

Hey Little Ant Website - Phillip and Hannah Hoose

VIDEO - Claudette Colin: Twice Towards Justice
Author, Phillip Hoose Explains Montgomery Bus Boycott at Portland, ME Schools



Rebellion was on my mind that day. All during February we’d been talking about people who had taken stands. We had been studying the Constitution in Miss Nesbitt’s class. I knew I had rights. I had paid my fare the same as white passengers. I knew the rule—that you didn’t have to get up for a white person if there were no were no empty seats left on the bus—and there weren’t. But it wasn’t about that. I was thinking, Why should I have to get up just because a driver tells me to, or just because I’m black? Right then, I decided I wasn’t gonna take it anymore. I hadn’t planned it out, but my decision was built on a lifetime of nasty experiences.

After the other students got up, there were three empty seats in my row, but that white woman still wouldn’t sit down—not even across the aisle from me. That was the whole point of segregation rules—it was all symbolic—blacks had to be behind whites. If she sat down in the same row as me, it meant I was as good as her. So she had to keep standing until I moved back. The motorman yelled again, louder: “Why are you still sittin’ there?” I didn’t get up, and I didn’t answer him. It got real quiet on the bus. A white rider yelled from the front, “You got to get up!” A girl named Margaret Johnson answered from the back, “She ain’t got to do nothin’ but stay black and die.”

The white woman kept standing over my seat. The driver shouted, “Gimme that seat!” then “Get up, gal!” I stayed in my seat, and I didn’t say a word.