From the Publisher
“Abbott's true-to-life descriptions and complicated story lines set in the volatile, pre-Civil Rights era will leave readers with much to think about and discuss when considering race relations in our country's history.” School Library Journal
“Beautifully crafted and written.” Starred, Publishers Weekly
“This tale, based in part on Abbott's memories of a childhood road trip, could fuel avid classroom discussion or quiet personal reflection.” Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“With every narrative turn, Tony Abbott brings these never-before-seen perspectives into view in this moving civil rights kaleidoscope. Untold. Unforgettable.” Rita Williams-Garcia, author of One Crazy Summer
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—One summer day in 1959, a white middle-class family from Ohio—nine-year-old Bobby, his brother, his mother, and his Hungarian grandmother—sets out to Florida, planning to tour Civil War battlefields along the way. In a parallel story, Jacob, and African-American boy, takes a trip from Atlanta to Dalton, GA, to visit his relatives for a few days. Neither family realizes that their paths will cross in an unexpected way, or that their beliefs and assumptions will be tested. Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South, Tony Abbott's semi-autobiographical tale (Farrar, 2011) of race relations, segregation, and prejudice is juxtaposed with the story of a young boy coming of age. Told from multiple perspectives, this pre-Civil Rights era tale weaves together different strands of life in the South, exploring racism and bigotry. Brian David voices Bobby in a slightly stilted manner, but clearly expresses the turmoil of growing up. The voicing of the other characters, provided by Kevin R. Free and Robin Miles, is more authentic and fluid. A poignant and memorable tale.—Michaela B. Schied, Indian River Middle School, Philadelphia, NY
Read an Excerpt
Thursday, June 11, 1959
LUNCH-BOX DREAM (Chapter One)Bobby
They called them chocolate men, Bobby and his brother.
You didn't see them on the East Side, high over Euclid, except once or twice a week and only early in the morning.
Where did they come from? There were no chocolate boys and girls in his school or at church. There were no chocolate ladies living in his neighborhood. There were no chocolate families at the park or the outdoor theater or the ball field. And yet the men came every week to his house.
That morning, as he lay on the grass by the sidewalk, Bobby heard them coming again.
First there was the roar and squeal of the big truck. That was far up the street. It was early, the time when the sun edged over the rooftops, but warm for the middle of June. Bobby was sharpening Popsicle sticks into little knives while his brother watched.
"Hurry up," Ricky said.
Or not, thought Bobby. You have to do this properly. To sharpen a stick correctly you scraped it slantways against the sidewalk seams, and it took a while. With each stroke, you drew the stick toward you or pushed it away from you in a curving motion, like a barber stropping his razor in a Western movie.
Bobby wanted a thin blade, and his cheek was right down there above the sidewalk, with one eye squeezed shut to focus on the motion of his hand. The concrete scratched his knuckles, whited his skin, but you had to do it that way. You needed to scrape the stick nearly flat against the sidewalk to give you the thinnest blade.
Bobby would use the knife for little things. It could be a tool, or a weapon in a soldier game; it might be used to carve modeling clay, or as a casually found stick that on the utterance of a secret phrase became a lost cutlass of legend; or as a makeshift sidearm for defense on the schoolyard; or as nothing much, a thing to stab trees with or to jab into the ground to unearth bugs and roots or to press against your pocketed palm as you walked through stores downtown.
If his mother found one, she tossed it away.
Or he suspected she did. He had seen his sticks snapped in half in the wastebasket and he didn't think his brother threw them there. It was Ricky who had taught him how to shape the knives, though he didn't make them himself anymore. And it wasn't their father, because he was hardly home these days.
"Hurry up," Ricky said.
"This one will be good," said Bobby, taking his time to get the sharpest edge. "Maybe my best."
The truck moved, then stopped, then moved and stopped closer. The boys looked up. They watched the chocolate men jump off the sides of the truck. The ash cans were loud when they scraped them over the sidewalk and into the street, dragging them with leathery hands. Their yelling was not like the sound of the brown men and women who sang and played pianos on television. They approached, crisscrossing the sidewalk.
"That's it," said Ricky. "I don't want to be here when they come. I'm going in."
Bobby scooped up his knives, and the two boys ran inside. Ricky, a year older, was faster. They pulled the living room drapes aside and through the big window saw their cans being scraped and lifted.
"That one guy's huge."
"Did you see that? He took both Downings' cans at the same time."
Thick bare brown arms raised and shook the cans, the truck swallowed the trash, the cans were swung back and set down, and the men were on to the next house and the next. The boys watched from the picture window until the men disappeared down Cliffview to wherever they had come from.
"Let's go out back," said Ricky.
"I want to watch TV," Bobby said.
"No, let's go out back. I have a tennis ball."
"Bring the cans into the carport, please," said their mother. "Then breakfast. I have something to tell you."
"In a minute, Mom," Ricky called. To Bobby he said: "Let's go out back first."
LUNCH-BOX DREAM Copyright © 2011 by Tony Abbott