The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had
By: Kristin Levine
Published By: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: 2009
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Audience: Middle Grades
Kristin Levine evokes the spirit of To Kill a Mockingbird as she tells the story of Henry "Dit" Sims in 1917 rural Alabama. Even though I was often reminded of events in To Kill a Mockingbird that only made me love this book more. Levine stays true to the southern voices of the time period - both good and bad - as she evaluates the issue of race.
Dit Sims is one of ten children and being born almost smack in the middle means he doesn't get the amount of attention he would like. Summers are always rough for Dit because his best friend, Chip, is away visiting his grandmother and his friend, Elbert, is learning how to take over the family business. It's not a lot of fun to try and play baseball alone. Even fishing alone isn't something that Dit craves. You would expect him to enjoy solitude with so many people always around at home, but Dit wants nothing more than to have a friend. Excitement builds in town as everyone waits on the new post master, Mr. Walker, and his family to arrive from Boston. Rumors swirl that he has a son that is Dit's age.
However, when the town shows up to welcome the newcomers, they get the shock of their lives. Stepping off the train is an African American family. It's obvious the Walkers don't exactly want to be living in Alabama in a time when African Americans were seen as second class citizens. Their arrival certainly shakes up the sleepy town of Moundville. Dit and Emma start a shaky friendship, but eventually learn that the color of their skin does not mean they can't become friends. The two of them must battle prejudice and follow their hearts to do what's right. Middle Grades readers and older readers alike will be drawn in by the characters and plot. Levine has added just the right amount of social commentary and even thrown in a murder trial.
I found this story to be so compelling. For one, I am fascinated by southern history and culture. Levine does a beautiful job of capturing the south in this novel. I also appreciate that she didn't sugar coat things. This book would be extremely powerful to use in conjunction with a US History course. I was also more fascinated when I learned that the author was inspired to create this story after reading her grandfather's memoirs. She stayed true to her grandfather and named her main character after him. She used his experiences growing up in the south to craft this tale, but did add in her own flourishes. I always find stories based on truth to be so interesting. I also feel that makes them mean more to younger students when there are difficult issues at hand.
This audiobook was phenomenal. I loved the narrator's voice and he was able to make Dit and Emma come alive for me. I highly recommend the book in this format.
One Last Gripe: I didn't like the ending. I wanted to know what was going to happen next for Dit and Emma. After spending so much time with them I just felt like the reader should get a glimpse into their futures.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Dit's evolution; the reader sees him transform from a little kid into a young man
First Sentence: I've been wrong before.
Favorite Characters: Dit, Emma
Least Favorite Character: Mrs. Pooley
The last thing Harry "Dit" Sims expects when Emma Walker comes to town is to become friends. Propertalking, brainy Emma doesn't play baseball or fish too well, but she sure makes Dit think, especially about the differences between black and white in the 1910s. 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.