Abby Takes a Stand (Scraps of Time 1960) by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Gordon James.
Puffin Books, Penguin Young Readers Group, New York, 2005.
Elementary historical fiction, 104 pages. Author has won the Newberry for previous work.
Not in AR yet
The Scraps of Time series is built around the idea of a grandmother and three grandchildren building a scrapbook about their family from items kept in their grandmother’s attic. One of the children finds something and asks Gee about it, and then the story proper begins as she tells them the story behind that item.
In this case the item is a lunch menu from a long-gone, segregated restaurant. Gee herself was just a ten-year old girl named Abby when she accepted a flyer for a free ride on a merry-go-round at the mall’s restaurant, only to find out that she is not welcome there.
This experience changes her and causes her family to become involved in the peaceful protests. Not all members want to be involved, and both opinions are given some discussion. Abby and her best friend are too young to join the protests, but they hand out flyers and even sneak downtown where they witness the more dangerous side of protesting.
This book sort of took me by surprise. I have been reading the 2-3rd and 4-5th book club’s required reading, so I grabbed this one as a short read. It was indeed the work of an afternoon to finish it, but I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much.
The book doesn’t shy away from religion or church as the African Methodist Episcopal Church is a meeting place for protesters and spirituals are sung by the protesters. Abby is generally moral and faces consequences for some poor choices.
At the end of the book is “Another Scrap of Time”, a concluding chapter which leads us to the next book in the series as one of the grandchildren picks up another memory. Following this is a timeline of real events and a copy of the rules for the Nashville sit-ins. These help add a valuable historical context to the story.
One thing I would have found helpful was a family tree for Gee’s family. There were a lot of characters introduced in a short book, and I imagine there will be more in the next installment. Of course, it may not have been feasible, but I feel like it would have helped me keep track.
The illustrations inside the book were quite different from the cover illustration although they were done by the same artist. There is a black-and-white illustration about every ten pages or so within the text. Most are full page. I found the illustrations appealing. They are a bit hazy and I felt that added to the sense of going back in time. However, they were clear enough to show the characters and time period.
Abby is a 3rd grader in the book, but I think this book could be read up into middle school. The chapters are quite short (10 chapters plus the introduction, conclusion, and concluding facts in a 104 page book) and the book is surprisingly suspenseful. McKissack chooses well by having the danger center on Abby’s older cousin John and the intrigue on whether the store will be integrated, as we know Abby makes it to her own attic many years later. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.
Overall I would recommend this to any students who like historical fiction, and I think the short chapters and suspenseful narration would make a good read-aloud as well.