The Lucky Ones (Hardcover)
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Eleven-year-old Ellis Earl Brown lives in the Mississippi Delta in 1967. School is his refuge with a teacher and books that inspire him to dream. During an encounter with a famous visitor, Ellis Earl finds the courage to speak up for his family and community in this memorable story.— Rae Ann
It’s 1967, and eleven-year-old Ellis Earl Brown has big dreams. He’s going to grow up to be a teacher or a lawyer—or maybe both—and live in a big brick house in town. There’ll always be enough food in the icebox, and his mama won’t have to run herself ragged looking for work as a maid in order to support Ellis Earl and his eight siblings and niece, Vera. So Ellis Earl applies himself at school, soaking up the lessons that Mr. Foster teaches his class—particularly those about famous colored people like Mr. Thurgood Marshall and Miss Marian Wright—and borrowing books from his teacher’s bookshelf. When Mr. Foster presents him with a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ellis Earl is amazed to encounter a family that’s even worse off than his own—and is delighted by the Buckets’ very happy ending. But when Mama tells Ellis Earl that he might need to quit school to help support the family, he wonders if happy endings are only possible in storybooks. Around the historical touchstone of Robert Kennedy’s southern “poverty tour,” Linda Williams Jackson pulls from her own childhood in the Mississippi Delta to tell a detail-rich and poignant story with memorable characters, sure to resonate with readers who have ever felt constricted by their circumstances.
—Booklist (starred review)
Jackson draws on her personal history to show real people behind Kennedy’s historic visit. . . She successfully presents individuals who, despite grinding poverty, nurtured hopes and dreams, and she highlights those like Mr. Foster and his church community who shared what they had with those in need. . . . Rich in detail; offers readers immediacy and connection.
Ellis Earl, Mr. Foster, the Brown brood, and their predominantly Black community are astutely characterized, imbued with eclectic and lovable personalities. Jackson (A Sky Full of Stars) delivers a touching novel that resonates today, centering the crucial impact of community on one family’s financial precarity.
An inspiring story about a tight-knit family, The Lucky Ones makes real the people who lived, worked, and grew up in the Mississippi Delta amid the tumult of the 1960s.
Poverty and hunger are powerfully evident in this story which is based on author Linda Jackson’s experiences growing up in rural Mississippi during the 60s. . . . The southern dialect of the Black characters is spot on and helps lend the story a sense of place.
—School Library Connection