Saturday, July 23, 2011
Lunch-Box Dream by Tony Abbott
Most of the story is seen through Bobby's eyes as he and his older brother Ricky, along with his mother and grandmother, drive from Cleveland, Ohio to Florida. Bobby's grandmother is returning home after her husband's funeral. As a treat for Ricky, they stop at Civil War battlefields along the way. It's not such a treat for Bobby, whose troubled by confusing thoughts of his grandfather's death, Abraham Lincoln's coffin on his funeral train, and the battlefield deaths. While Ricky is enthralled, vividly describing the battles, Bobby is disturbed and haunted by his thoughts. And, he's too young to understand the emotional undercurrents of this trip.
However, another story is interwoven, the story of the Thomas family, a Negro family from Georgia. Their story is told by various family members up to the point when they realize a child is missing. Bobby is a typical white child of his time, 1959, with no experience with blacks, and a fear of the people he calls "chocolate." But, an accident brings Bobby's family to the same bus station where the Thomases are trying to get a ride. And, it's no surprise that Bobby, who has been fighting his emotions on the trip, often unsuccessfully, is the one who realizes how much people are alike, no matter what the color of their skin.
It's difficult to know who to recommend this book to. Most young people will not understand the history of the period with the Jim Crow laws and the racism. They will probably not understand the emotional problems in either family. This is a beautifully written book. I've never read a description of Abraham Lincoln's funeral train that chilled me the way Abbott's short three page description did, as Bobby imagined it. And, the final bus scene was moving. It's a thoughtful story. Maybe I should just recommend it here, for those readers who are willing to take a chance on a book marketed for youth. Lunch-Box Dream is a story that will touch and move adult readers.
Tony Abbott's website is www.tonyabbottbooks.com
Lunch-Box Dream by Tony Abbott. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ©2011. ISBN 9780374346737 (hardcover), 192p.