Friday, March 28, 2008
A Thousand Never Evers
It's the summer of 1963, and all is not well. Medgar Evans has just been shot, four little girls have been firebombed while at Sunday School, and who knows what else is going on that is not making the news.
Addie Ann Pickett lives in Kuckachoo Mississippi with her mama, her Uncle Bump (on account of his muscles), and her brother Elias. Her biggest concerns of the summer are working with her Uncle at Old Man Adams' place, trying to convince her best friend Delilah that jumping double dutch isn't baby stuff, and worrying about
7th grade next year with Mrs. Jacks over at Country Colored (West Thunder Creek Junior High School, if you please!)
Things start changing when Old Man Adams up and dies. No one is more surprised than Addie Ann when she, her Uncle and Elmira the cook, are summoned up to the house for the reading of the will. Mr. Adams left a little something for each of them. Elmira gets his dutch oven, Addie Ann gets the television (that she used to secretly watch sometimes), and Uncle Bump gets a beautiful gold pocket watch. Everyone there is most interested in what will become of the house and grounds. After all, Old Man Adams has the best garden around.
Imagine the looks on the sheriff's and mayor's faces when the lawyer announces that the garden is to be a shared community garden for whites and colored folks alike! But when most people in power are racist from their toes on up, this seems like a piece of Old Man Adams will that won't be honoured.
Then something even worse happens. One day when Addie Ann's brother brings her to the general store, two bully white boys take her cat from her. All because she raised her eyes, and doesn't know her place. One boy is about to drop kick poor Flapjack when Elias comes to the rescue, lobs a honeypot at the boy's head, knocks him out and breaks his leg. Elias takes off swimming for his life in the Bayou. Addie Ann knows the sheriff and his hounds, along with the Klan will be after Elias.
What follows is Addie Ann's struggle to get through. Her struggle to come to grips with what has happened to her family. And her realization that now is her time. The reverend always said that she would know when her time to the movement would come. When the hounds come for her Uncle, she knows it's her time, and Addie Ann rises to the occasion.
Brilliantly written, A Thousand Never Evers should have a place in every public and school library. Addie Ann and her family come alive off the page, as does the town of Kuckachoo itself. Equally heartbreaking and inspiring, Shana Burg has taken her own family's calling to the civil rights movement and made it into a work of art.
This is one of the rare times that I put a recommendation here and at Welcome to My Tweendom. I do think that this book really does span from tween to young adult. The issues that arise can be discussed in various manners, and the summer of 1963 is one that we all need to know and think about!