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Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged

by Jody Nyasha Warner
illustrated by Richard Rudnicki

1 rating
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list price: $18.95
published: 2010
Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
5 to 9
k to 4
Reading age:
5 to 9
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  • Short-listed, Norma Fleck for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction
  • Long-listed, Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable Information Book Award
  • Short-listed, ReadBoston Best Read Aloud Book Award
  • Short-listed, SYRCA Shining Willow Award
  • Commended, Resource Links' Year's Best
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Finalist for the 2011 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction

"On behalf of the Nova Scotia government, I sincerely apologize to Mrs. Viola Desmond’s family and to all African Nova Scotians for the racial discrimination she was subjected to by the justice system … We recognize today that the act for which Viola Desmond was arrested, was an act of courage, not an offence." -- Darrell Dexter, Premier of Nova Scotia, April 15, 2010

In Nova Scotia, in 1946, an usher in a movie theatre told Viola Desmond to move from her main floor seat up to the balcony. She refused to budge. Viola knew she was being asked to move because she was black. After all, she was the only black person downstairs. All the other black people were up in the balcony. In no time at all, the police arrived and took Viola to jail. The next day she was charged and fined, but she vowed to continue her struggle against such unfair rules. She refused to accept that being black meant she couldn't sit where she wanted.

Viola's determination gave strength and inspiration to her community at the time. She is an unsung hero of the North American struggle against injustice and racial discrimination whose story deserves to be widely known.

The African Canadian community in Nova Scotia is one of Canada's oldest and most established black communities. Despite their history and contributions to the province the people in this community have a long experience of racially based injustice.

Like Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks, who many years later, in 1955, refused to give up their bus seats in Alabama, Desmond's act of refusal awakened people to the unacceptable nature of racism and began and process of bringing an end to racial segregation in Canada.

An afterword provides a glimpse of African Canadian history.

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Contributor notes

Jody Nyasha Warner is a writer, human rights advisor and former librarian. She was inspired to write this book because so much African Canadian history is either not well known or not documented.

Richard Rudnicki is an artist known for his paintings of Nova Scotia as well as for his award-winning children’s books. His picture books include Tecumseh by James Laxer, which was nominated for the Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada’s Information Book Award, and Gracie, the Public Gardens Duck by Judith Meyrick, winner of the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration.

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Editorial Reviews

Plain speech in the vernacular of the time and predominantly red-hued acrylic paintings that seem imbued with their subject's passion combine to great effect in this important but not-well-known piece of Canadian history.

— Globe and Mail

This book is a powerful discussion starter on racism.

— Papertigers.org

...the author of the children's book 'Viola Desmond Won't be Budged!' knows why she wanted to write the Halifax businesswoman's story... "There's not much that's there that's Canadian and this is such a great story."

— The Chronicle-Herald

Varying perspectives heighten the emotional intensity, as do the excellent layout and design. This unique offering will be of particular value when studying women's or black history.

— School Library Journal

Using a cadenced style that echoes the oral tradition of African-Canadians, Warner recounts the story...

— Kirkus Reviews

Desmond’s story should prove eye-opening to readers whose civil rights references are limited to American figures.

— Publishers Weekly

...a compelling story...

— Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews


— Vancouver Sun

This carefully-researched book provides young learners with an informative look at racial segregation in Canada and a pivotal event in the civil rights movement.

— Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

From the first page, Viola Desmond Won't be Budged! hooks the reader...an engaging delight to read.

— CM Magazine

Rudnicki's vivid, dramatic art intensifies the danger that Desmond's stubborn determination brought her, and it lends itself well to the warm recounting of the unnamed narrator.

— Booklist


— Canadian Teacher Magazine

...warm and engaging...

— New Glasgow News
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About the Authors

Jody Nyasha Warner

Jody Nyasha Warner is a writer, editor and former librarian. She lives in Toronto with her two children.
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Richard Rudnicki

Richard Rudnicki is an artist known for his paintings of Nova Scotia as well as for his award-winning children's books. He lives in Halifax. Visit Richard Rudnicki's website: http://www.richardrudnicki.com/
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