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The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

4.2 22
by Kristin Levine

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The last thing Harry ?Dit? Sims expects when Emma Walker comes to town is to become friends. Proper -talking, brainy Emma doesn't play baseball or fi sh too well, but she sure makes Dit think, especially about the differences between black and white. But soon Dit is thinking about a whole lot more when the town barber, who is black, is put on trial for a terrible


The last thing Harry ?Dit? Sims expects when Emma Walker comes to town is to become friends. Proper -talking, brainy Emma doesn't play baseball or fi sh too well, but she sure makes Dit think, especially about the differences between black and white. But soon Dit is thinking about a whole lot more when the town barber, who is black, is put on trial for a terrible crime. Together Dit and Emma come up with a daring plan to save him from the unthinkable.

Set in 1917 and inspired by the author's true family history, this is the poignant story of a remarkable friendship and the perils of small-town justice

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Tension builds just below the surface of this energetic, seamlessly narrated first novel set in small-town Alabama in 1917. Twelve-year-old Harry, aka Dit, has been looking forward to the arrival of the new postmaster from Boston, said to have a son Dit's age. The "son" turns out to be a girl, Emma, and to everyone's surprise, the family is what Dit calls "colored" and others call "Negras." Emma, bookish and proud, impresses Dit with her determination (he calls it stubbornness) when she decides to learn to throw a ball or climb, and when Emma's mother upbraids him, Dit begins to rethink what he's been taught about the South's sorrowful defeat in the War Between the States. Levine sets up a climactic tragedy that will challenge the community's sense of justice; although hair-raising Mockingbird- esque events are becoming common in YA novels about inequality in the segregated South, Levine handles the setting with grace and nuance. Without compromising the virtues and vices of her characters, she lets her readers have a happy-enough ending. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Melanie Hundley
Although many people in Moundville are upset that the Walkers are black, Dit is upset because Emma is a girl; he decides that this is the worst bad luck ever. Dit becomes friends with Emma, and because of their friendship, begins to question why Emma can't go to his school, why the sheriff is allowed to steal, and why some townspeople won't allow Emma to be in a school play. Dit's emerging social and moral conscience causes him to reconsider previous actions and make difficult choices. When Doc Haley, the town barber, who is black, is accused of a terrible crime, Emma and Dit concoct a daring plan to rescue him. This novel is based on the author's family stories. Reviewer: Melanie Hundley
Children's Literature - Naomi Butler
Emma Walker Sims, the educated 12-year-old daughter of the new postmaster. Harry "Dit" Sims and the postmaster's daughter, Emma, become the most unlikely friends in Moundsville. No one had said that the new postmaster would be black. It makes no difference to Dit's family, but some of the other town members have problems with the situation. Consequences could be bad. There are separate schools for black and white so Dit can only teach Emma to hunt and other games and activities like baseball and exploring the woods and river when they have time together. Then the black town barber is accused of a crime. Dit and Emma know that he does not deserve to be punished and come up with a daring plan to save Doc. This is a poignant story of a brave friendship and the perils of small town justice in Moundsville, Alabama, set in 1917. The book is not to be missed! Reviewer: Naomi Butler
School Library Journal

Gr 6-9

This spirited, early-20th-century coming-of-age story presents a small-town cast of well-drawn characters, an unlikely friendship, engaging adventures, and poignant realizations. When a new postmaster arrives in Moundville, AL, 12-year-old Dit is surprised to discover that Mr. Walker is African American and that his refined daughter knows nothing about baseball, hunting, or fishing. With his best friend gone for the summer and in search of companionship other than his nine siblings he reluctantly hangs out with proper, opinionated Emma, who tags along with him asking questions and trying to keep up. Gradually, Dit begins to respect her independence, intelligence, compassion, and determination. But the harsh realities of segregation and racist attitudes threaten their friendship and open Dit's eyes to injustice. After witnessing the town barber's self-defense shooting of the alcoholic and abusive sheriff, Dit and Emma hatch a plan to save the black man's life. Dit's episodic story resonates with youthful authenticity. Peer pressure and racial barbs weigh on his competitive but sensitive spirit. Dit's insular world expands on drives to Selma with Dr. Griffiths, when the influenza epidemic of 1918 invades Moundville, during his pa's shotgun vigil to protect neighbors from nightriders, and in his shared exploits and lively discussions with Emma. Adult characters offer a range of guidance, perspective, and tolerance that helps shape Dit's understanding of his world. Readers will find humor in his candid account, universality in his dilemmas and blunders, and inspiration in his friendship with Emma and their mutual desire for social justice.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of theArts, NC

Kirkus Reviews
When 12-year-old Emma Walker comes to Moundville, Ala., with her father, the new postmaster, Harry "Dit" Sims feels it's "the worst piece of bad luck" he's ever had. He was hoping for a boy to play ball with but got a "colored" girl instead. But he teaches her to throw and hit a baseball and how to dig a cave, and she teaches him about math and books. Gradually they become best friends and even allies in the rescue of a black barber unjustly jailed and sentenced to hang. Levine draws on her grandfather's recollections to skillfully delineate the nuances of race relations in a small Southern town in 1917, where kindness and politeness sometimes trumped prejudice and ordinary people found ways to treat each other decently. Dit and Emma are likable protagonists, and the growth of their friendship, along with Dit's emerging moral conscience, make this a fine debut novel by an author to watch. (Historical fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher

★ “[An] energetic, seamlessly narrated first novel… Levine handles the setting with grace and nuance.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ “This classic story of how unlikely persons can change things for the better should appeal to all readers.”—VOYA, starred review 

"A fine debut novel by an author to watch."—Kirkus Reviews

"Readers will find humor in his candid account, universality in his dilemmas and blunders, and inspiration in his friendship with Emma and their mutual desire for social justice."—School Library Journal

"Levine’s story treats racism frankly and with no mincing of words. The highlight of this coming-of-age journey comes from watching the two kids learn about the world and come to care about each other in the way of 13-year-olds."—Booklist

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
680L (what's this?)
File size:
516 KB
Age Range:
9 - 11 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
-A fine debut novel by an author to watch.+ -Kirkus Reviews

Meet the Author

Kristin Levine lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband and daughter. This is her first novel.

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The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
4108hey More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It taught me a little about segrigation and the American Civil War. I learned more about how to be someone's friend even if people are teasing you about your new friend's appearance like their race, color, religon, or gender. Also, if your so called "friends" are teasing you because of your new friend maybe you should think if their really your "friend". Think about it. Also, think if your the person who's teasing a person because of their appearnce or your teasing their friend. How do you think it feal's to be teased or maybe that's why your teasing, because someone else teased you? either way you shouldn't tease. this book has taught me alot and it will teach you life lessons, too.
SFiolic More than 1 year ago
The story begins with Harry “Dit” Sims. He is one of ten children in his family in a small town. He hears that a new mail man is coming to work in his town since the last one left. Dit thinks that the new mail man has a son that he could play with, but when the mail man arrives. It turns out that he has a daughter not a son, Emma Walker. Plus, Emma is black. Since the story takes place in 1917 discrimination is still strong. Even tough, Dit and Emma become good friends. Much later in the book, the town barber is trialed for crime. Dit and Emma come up with a plan to save him from his punishment. I liked that the author didn't just say that Dit and Emma became friends right away and that was that. Both of them had problems in their friendship just like a normal friendship. The only thing that I didn't like about the book is that it took a long time to get to the main problem of the story. The other problems of the book were too small. This book is great for 8th graders. It is a fast read and can teach people not to discriminate.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best freindship book i ever read. Pretty cute if you like emotional stories!:)
Anna Davis More than 1 year ago
My school libarian suggested it and now im suggesting it to you!
Mary Ann Bagasbas More than 1 year ago
Love the book nice story
Amanda Lionetti More than 1 year ago
very good u should resd it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is good but it is logh
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
His name is Justin, and he's that guy you imagine when you think of love, except he's real, real handsome. He has tan skin with black hair that hangs down into his eyes. His eyes are brown, and they sparkle when he's happy, so you can always tell when he's enjoying himself. He's cute, REALLY cute. He's tall and super hot. He knows when to talk and just what to say, and when to be quiet and just look at you. Here's a true story of him and me: It was after school and i couldn't stop thinking of how many times i'd caught Justin looking at me, Did he like me as much as i was as crazy about him? Then i heard it,"Could i walk you home?" I swung around and stood stared at the handsome face that was in front of me."O..oh..um..Justin, you want to walk ME home? I mean..sure you can!", i stuttered. This is a dream come true! "Sweet!", he said. We walked a few blocks and then he spoke,"I was kinda wondering if you have tomorrow free, 'cause i was thinking about going to the beach, just me and you." He seemed a bit uncofortable. Wait, was he asking me out on a date? "Yes!..i mean..i'm not doing anything tomorrow..that would be great." Why was it so hard to talk to him? He turned a bit pink as i stammered,"OK, cool. I'll pick you up eight to beat the crouds". I could tell by his eyes that he was relieved. He slipped closer to me and took my hand in mine. I felt tingling traveling all the way up my arm from where his hand touched mine. What was this feeling? Pure happiness that is what i felt, perfect pleasure. Wow! I was really crazy over Justin wasn't i? I looked up at him and he looked down at me, i saw his eyes were sparkling(which means he was enjoying holding my hand). I was thrilled! We got to my house all to soon and i regreted letting go of his hand. "Bye, see you tomorrow", he said. I smiled in return. I went to bed happier that night then i had ever been in my life. I jumped out of bed and switched off my alarm. SIX THIRTY! IT'S A SATURDAY! Then it all came back to me Justin was going to pick me up for our date! So i threw on some clothes, and crept out of my room. I walked outside just as Justin was pulling into our driveway. I jumped into the car and couldn't help but stare at Justin the whole way and i noticed he was getting quite pink. When we finally got to the beach i could see there was nobody there.Yes! We started walking along the shore without a word. After a while i noticed Justin had been slowly inching closer. I closed the gap between us and slid my hand in his. He smiled gratefully and i could see he felt that perfect happiness i was feeling again. Then pulled me over to a boulder. We sat down behind it and just held hands for awhile. Then Justin said,"It's a great morning". I nodded in reply and then there was silence. Out of the corner of my eye i saw Justin stareing at me and then he started turning pink again. He sure was doing that a lot lately! Then he mumbled, "I know what would make it better." This time i looked at him,"What?", i asked, curious. Then he bent closer to me and looked me in the eyes, looking hotter than ever. He whispered,"This", as he leaned closer. He bridged the gap between his lips and mine and kissed my heart sore. The kiss was my first and it sucked my breath away completely. I savored it to the last moment. His eyes locked with mine, his hands holding mine, and his lips on mine, i hoped with all my heart that this moment, this feeling of love would never end and i hoped that Justin felt the same.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
I loved the friendship between Dit and Emma in this novel. Dit was hoping a boy would step off the train when it rolled into town but unfortunately a girl named Emma hopped off. Not just any girl either, this girl and her family were Negras. With his best friend Chip at his grandmothers all summer, Dit needed a new friend for the summer. Since the new postmaster’s family would be living in a cabin next to Dit’s family home, Dit was told to show Emma around by his mama and it wasn’t long before the two of them were friends. Dit showed Emma all of the fine things that he could do like skipping stones, swimming, playing baseball, and digging a cave. Almost every day the two of them would retire to their cave and relax and talk. I enjoyed reading about how these two children conversed with each other and learned about each other’s world. They didn’t seem to be in competition with each other, they were playing on equal fields. The difference of their skin didn’t matter to them; they were enjoying their summer, just being kids and enjoying life. School is about to begin and Emma has to attend the Negro school which upsets Dit. Dit makes a comment to his father that there are boys who have worked the fields all summer who are darker than Emma who will attend the white school and he doesn’t feel that this is fair. What a wonderful statement and observation on Dit part. Attending school, Dit is harassed by his peers for they have become aware of his friendship with Emma. Their abuse is hard for Dit to take. As the harassment extends to others in the class, Dit cannot watch this type of behavior occur. Dit can no longer stand in the shoes of a bully like he was last year, he has changed. As Dit learns to handle his peers at school, the town must also learn to accept the new changes that the nation has adopted.
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In the beginning i thiught i wouldn't like it but i ended up loving it! I really liked it! The end was a little sad but still makes you smile! :)
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dit tells about a storyc and blacks were not as good as whites. He likes Emma Walker or(Emma Watson). The story is great i think you should read it.
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Kristin Levine is my cousin! I've never met her but her book is awesome!