A Thousand Never Evers
A Thousand Never Evers
by Shana Burg
From the Hardcover edition.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Text Difficulty:7 - 12
From the bookJune 12, 1963
Now get this: there's a boy in Jackson so rich that when he finished high school, his daddy bought him a brand-new car. At least that's what I heard. In my family, we don't have that kind of money, but my uncle gives a whole dollar to any Pickett who graduates Acorn Elementary School. It's tradition.
So here I am, soaring through the sky on my swing that hangs from the oak tree, when Uncle Bump calls out the door of his shed, "Go on. Get your brother. He'll take you." He stretches a dollar bill between both hands and I jump right off. Sure it's not enough for a car, but that dollar can buy a whole lot of good, like twenty Hershey bars. After my brother graduated elementary school, he bought a baseball. But I'm not going to waste my dollar on something dumb. I want something important, like dye to turn my flour-colored dress new for the first day of school.
"Mama will be proud you're spending your dollar to make a bright impression at County Colored," Uncle Bump tells me.
"It's West Thunder Creek Junior High School," I tell him, and stuff the dollar into my sock. Sure I'm going to the Negro junior high school, but a school's a school. Folks should call it by its proper name and make it sound important.
"Don't dillydally, Addie Ann," Uncle Bump says. He pulls the harmonica out of his pocket and blows a chord. And it's real good to hear him sound those notes, because ever since our boss, Old Man Adams, got the whooping cough, Uncle Bump hasn't had time to play music. "Mama's bringing home some hen tonight," he says. Then he sinks down on the steps of his shed and slides that harmonica across his lips.
I'm heading across the tracks to the white side and I reckon some furry company won't hurt. My cat, Flapjack, and me have a secret code. When I whistle and click my tongue twice, he comes running. Tweet, click, click. Tweet, click, click. Other folk think it's magic, but here he comes, dashing across the pine needles, purring as he threads a figure eight round my ankles.
When we pass Brother Babcock's chicken shack, my stomach growls. And when we get to Daisy's Dry Goods, I kick up the dirt on the path, because I've been itching to buy a real new dress in there, but right about now, we don't have the money.
As always, once we cross the railroad tracks everything seems whiter and brighter, and I don't mean just the people who live here. The fresh-painted shingles and the white picket fences gleam in the late-afternoon sun. Even Flapjack's tan fur lights up a fiery orange. And my feet are glad to walk on pavement.
By the time we get to the edge of Mr. Mudge's place, the sun's diving into the horizon. Flapjack and me pass by Mr. Mudge's greenhouse and his stable full of cows and pigs, on the way to his farm where my brother works. "Now don't squish the squash," I tell Flapjack before we head across the leafy rows to meet Elias, who's bent like a rainbow over the tomatoes. He's been working this land since he was five.
"Uncle Bump says you've gotta take me to get the dye," I say, and hold up the dollar to prove it's true. But Elias stares straight past me like I'm not even here. Mama always says he's "half legs, half smile," but today his grin is gone. His eyes are sad and distant.
"What's a matter?" I ask. He's probably worried up about getting into college, so I tell him, "I bet you'll even get a scholarship to Morehouse. Then I'll come to Georgia and visit you and we'll—"
"Shut up," he says.
Usually Elias doesn't live on the edge of his mind like me, so right about now I don't know what to think.
"Don't you know 'bout Medgar?" he asks.
"Medgar Evers got shot. Down in Jackson. Late last night....
About the Author-
- Shana Burg's debut novel, A Thousand Never Evers, was inspired by her father's role as a lawyer in the civil rights movement. To write this novel, she conducted scores of interviews, read old newspapers and magazines, listened to oral histories and the blues, memorized endless gardening facts, hired her former middle school students to edit her manuscript, and baked butter bean cookies. Shana lives with her family in Austin, Texas.
- Burg and Brome take a violent place and time in American history--1960s Mississippi--and create the realistic but joyful story of Addie Ann Pickett. We follow Addie Ann's family during these dark days, when her adored brother disappears due to a misunderstanding and her beloved Uncle Bump is arrested for taking on local racists who are trying to cheat the black community. All of this occurs as the assassinated civil rights worker Medgar Evers is mourned by black America. Narrator Kenya Brome gives Addie Ann a wink in her voice. Brome also perfectly captures Addie Ann's spirited mother and her town's redneck sheriff. Author Burg begins and ends the book with a chronology of events and injustices occurring even today. This story is perfect for those of all ages. S.G.B. (c) AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine
Starred review from June 9, 2008
Set in rural Mississippi during the civil rights movement, this gripping first novel offers an up-close look at the racism and violence endured in an African-American community. By the time Addie Ann Pickett, the narrator, enters junior high, she is well aware of the racial divisions in her county. She has been warned not to stay on the white side of town after the sun has set and not to “look at white folks too close.” But her older brother and the local minister have different ideas and argue that “there comes a time when a man’s dignity’s worth more than his life.” Caught between her mother’s rule to stay away from trouble and the call to take action, Addie must make decisions, especially when the lives of two family members are at stake. References to significant historical events (Medgar Evers’s assassination, the March on Washington) add authenticity and depth, while Addie’s frank, expertly modulated voice delivers an emotional wallop. Ages 9–12.
PublisherPenguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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