Tony Abbott's Lunch-Box Dream is a disturbing, at times beautiful, emotional story of two young boys, a troubling journey, and prejudice. Abbott based the story on a trip he himself took as a child, a trip that must have lingered in his memory. Unfortunately, as interesting as the story is to an adult, I think it's going to leave its target audience lost and confused. Lunch-Box Dream is marketed as a book for readers ten to fourteen, I don't think they'll understand the history and the emotional tension in this story.
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.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
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My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.