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Dancing In Cadillac Light

Dancing In Cadillac Light

4.6 10
by Kimberly Willis Holt

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1968 looks like it'll be a pretty good year for Jaynell Lambert. The town's going to pave the dirt road she lives on, her girly-girl sister, Racine, isn't driving her completely crazy, and Grandpap has just moved in with his new emerald green Cadillac convertible. Jaynell and Grandpap have something special. But why won't Grandpap tell her the reason he visits with


1968 looks like it'll be a pretty good year for Jaynell Lambert. The town's going to pave the dirt road she lives on, her girly-girl sister, Racine, isn't driving her completely crazy, and Grandpap has just moved in with his new emerald green Cadillac convertible. Jaynell and Grandpap have something special. But why won't Grandpap tell her the reason he visits with the dirt-poor Pickens family on the other side of town? When Jaynell finds out Grandpap's secret, the legacy of an old man transforms a family, and a town.

"At once gritty and poetic, stark and sentimental . . . a solid page turner. Holt once again displays her remarkable gift."(School Library Journal, starred review)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.11(w) x 7.71(h) x 0.43(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter one
Driving My Troubles Away

Grandpap came to live with us the day after the highway men arrived to blacktop our road. It was July—hot as cinders. Uncle Floyd called July “Wet Dog Days” because all month long the air smelled like a stinky mutt caught in the rain. But that day not even the heat could keep me cooped up inside like a setting hen. I wasn’t about to miss the excitement. We lived on one of the last dirt roads in Moon, Texas. The only blacktop roads in Moon stretched in front of the rich folks’ homes, leaving us to live with the dust and potholes.

All my life I’d heard Daddy say, “Those Dyers always thought they were better than us ’cause they lived on a blacktop road.” The Dyers got everything first in Moon—a color TV, a private phone line, a brand-new Cadillac. I thought the gravel truck making its way down Cypress Road would transform our lives into something grand.

Before Momma ordered me to do the breakfast dishes with my sister, Racine, I escaped next door and hopped inside one of Mr. Bailey’s cars to wait for the gravel truck. Clifton Bailey’s Automobile Salvage and Parts was the most amazing place in Moon. Junk cars were parked in his yard, and piles of rusty parts and patched tires were scattered about like lost treasure.

Two years ago I took to sneaking over to Clifton Bailey’s and slipping into one of his junkers. The whole while, I tried to keep a lookout for Mr. Bailey, but one day he caught me red-handed. He narrowed his crossed eyes and frowned while I sat there with my hands stuck to the steering wheel.

Finally he laughed. “Jaynell, anytime you take a notion, you just pick out a car and drive your heart away.”And I did. I drove everywhere, covering miles and miles, even though none of the cars actually ran. Usually I drove when I felt so full I couldn’t hold my feelings inside me without popping a vein. Like when Racine made me mad enough to commit bloody murder, or when Grandma died and I was determined not to shed one tear, or when the newsman talked about how one day soon a man would walk on the moon. Just the thought of that made me feel like I could bust.

Leaning back against the seat, eyes closed, chin up, hands wrapped around the steering wheel, I moved beyond the dirt roads, away from Moon, into Marshall to rescue Grandpap from Aunt Loveda’s. We’d head down to Highway 80, which stretched across Texas, and we’d be riding in a big fancy car, the kind that made people sit up and take notice, like the Dyers’ Cadillac. After our trip, we’d return to Grandpap’s homeplace.

I hadn’t been to the homeplace since Grandma died, and I missed it something fierce. The homeplace was just a little house on two tiny acres, but I loved everything inside and out. The tree house in the tall oak tree that I used to pretend was a rocket, the corner bookshelf in the living room with Grandpap’s Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey westerns, the smell of coffee brewing on the stove and Hungry Jack biscuits baking in the oven.Grandma always joked, “Ain’t no use making them from scratch when they’re twice as good coming from a can.” She’d serve them with real butter and a spoon of Blackburn’s strawberry preserves. Sometimes when she was in a homemade baking mood, she’d make M&M brownies.

Last month after Grandma died, Grandpap sat around his house in his underwear and wouldn’t eat. He didn’t speak to anybody, not even me. That’s when Aunt Loveda and Uncle Floyd took Grandpap from his homeplace on the outskirts of Moon to live with them in their brand-new four-bedroom ranch house in Marshall. Aunt Loveda said her brick home had a lot of room to move around in, which was a good thing because every one of those Thigpens was round, round, round. Especially cousins Sweet Adeline and Little Floyd, who was only named that on account of his daddy, Big Floyd.

I felt like they had yanked Grandpap from my world. I was Grandpap’s favorite. He called me Raccoon Gal because when I was little I wore a Daniel Boone hat with a raccoon’s tail.Before Grandma died, me and Grandpap spent a lot of time together. He took me fishing with him in his canoe, Little Mamma Jamma, and showed me all the spots on Caddo Lake. I knew where to find Devil’s Elbow, Old Folks Playground and Hamburger Point. Me and Grandpap had spied on alligators, watched turtles sunbathe and found our way back by studying the way moss grew on the cypress trees.Just as I pressed the accelerator to the floor, I heard Momma holler, “Jaynell, get in this house and help Racine with the dishes!”How would I ever see the world with a sink of sudsy water always waiting for me?

Meet the Author

Kimberley Willis Holt is the author of My Louisiana Sky and the winner of the 1999 National Book Award for When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. She lives in Amarillo, Texas.

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4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
adb3301 More than 1 year ago
Daily strolls through the cemetery, snipe hunts, spying and riding fancy driving lessons are just a few of the adventures that Jaynell Lambert has in Dancing in Cadillac Light by Kimberly Willis Holt. This is a sweet book that begins in the summer of 1968. Jaynell is excited about men walking on the moon, but the big news closer to home is the anticipation of paved roads in front of her house. This is a sign of status, indicating that theirs was improving, so she thought. Another big event was grandpap moving in. Jaynell loves spending time with her grandpap, mostly because he gives her driving lessons. However, there are more meaningful lessons that Jaynell is learning from her grandpap, that she isn't aware of. She doesn't realize the valuable lessons until after he's gone. Jaynell learns of her family secrets and remembers the example set by grandpap that shape her into the kind of person her family would be proud of. adb3301
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
HomeSchoolBookReview More than 1 year ago
It is 1968, just before Neil Armstrong's historic walk on the moon, and eleven-year-old Jaynell Lambert lives in the little village of Moon, TX, with her father Rollins, mother Arlene, and ten-year-old sister Racine. Her mother's sister, Aunt Loveda Thigpen, and her family, Uncle Floyd and cousins Sweet Adeline and Little Floyd, live in nearby Marshall, TX. Jaynell's Grandpap, Maurice Boudreaux, also lives in Moon. A little while before the book opens, Grandma had died. Grandpap started moping and mumbling around, so Aunt Loveda and Uncle Floyd took him home to live with them until he started planting sugarcane near Loveda's roses, so the Lamberts took him into their home, and Jaynell had to move into a room with Racine. A lot of people think that old Maurice is going crazy. He had been a mailman, and now he wanders around the neighborhood, taking folks' mail into their house from their mailboxes and visiting with them. While out on Caddo Lake in his boat with Jaynell, he runs some duck hunters off, although admittedly it was not yet duck season. He goes and buys a bright green Cadillac and even lets Jaynell drive it in the field. The only other crazy person whom Jaynell knows is Betty Jean Kizer who, after her son Clyde T. was killed while swimming in the creek, runs around with wild hair and dances in the moonlight. Then, Grandpap turns his old house over to the Pickenses, a family which many in town consider "white trash." Uncle Floyd is even talking about going to the sheriff for an eviction notice. What will Jaynell learn about her grandfather that will change her attitude towards him, her own family, and even the Pickenses? The characters of Kimberly Willis Holt's books, which include My Louisiana Sky, Mister and Me, and When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, have been called quirky. I would certainly agree that this is true for Dancing in Cadillac Light as well. It is an interesting story that will give today's children some insight into the lives of poorer people in rural Texas during the 1960s. I have a little trouble considering a time through which I lived (I was fourteen in 1968, just three years older than Jaynell) as a subject for "historical fiction," but then it is true nonetheless! Besides some common euphemisms, there is one instance of the "d" word by Jaynell's father, and the author seems somewhat fixated on using childish slang terms for urine and the rear end, probably to appeal to juvenile minds. Jaynell is beginning to develop and notices "curves" and "bumps." The younger boyfriend of an older lady in town is called a gigolo. There is a little bit of dishonesty portrayed in the book when Aunt Loveda bids up customers at Uncle Floyd's auction, but that is portrayed in somewhat of a negative light. On the positive side, respect by children for adults is emphasized, and in spite of their difficulties this is a family which hangs together. The conclusion is satisfying.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is just so fun to read~!~!~!~!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this book had a very good plot and it was a good read, i could not put it down. I really recomend this book to any reader out there looking for a good book to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is okay... but not the best ive read... its needs a lil more excitment in it!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this book is really great. But it could use with a bit more excitement.
Guest More than 1 year ago
hey yall- this book is so awesome! a friend gave it to me on my birthday one year. it is one of the best books i have ever read! everyone should definitley read it
Guest More than 1 year ago