The $66 Summer

John Armistead, Author, James Pate, Illustrator
John Armistead, Author, James Pate, Illustrator Milkweed Editions $15.95 (230p) ISBN 978-1-57131-626-4
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Paperback - 213 pages - 978-1-57131-663-9
Paperback - 213 pages - 978-1-57131-625-7
Prebound-Glued - 978-0-606-21752-1
Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-28069-3
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Set in 1955 Alabama, this carefully developed first novel explores a white boy's introduction to the devastating effects of racism. The summer he turns 13, George yearns to earn enough money to buy a motorcycle and ends up staying in Obadiah with his grandmother, earning a dollar a day at her store. There he becomes reacquainted with some of the folks who live near or on his grandmother's land: two ""colored"" children, Esther and Bennett, whose father, Staple, ran off unexpectedly a few years ago; George's alcoholic, bigoted father's old friend, scary Mr. Vorhise, who raises fighting dogs; and Auntie Hoosilla, a disfigured old woman reputed to be a witch. Although the book is somewhat slow-going at first, introducing the players and establishing their views on race, none of it is superfluous. Stories told to George by friends and relatives provide clues about Staple's unexplained departure, a mystery that gradually becomes the central focus. Armistead's honest dialogue and believable characterizations add resonance to the timeless theme of injustice. The climax, conveying the tragic fate of Esther's and Bennett's father, will leave a searing impression. Ages 8-13. (May)
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