Cover image for Abby takes a stand
Abby takes a stand
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Puffin Books, 2006, c2005.
Physical Description:
104 p. : ill. ; 20 cm.
Reading Level:
580 L Lexile
Added Author:
Gee recalls for her grandchildren what happened in 1960 in Nashville, Tennessee, when she, aged ten, passed out flyers while her cousin and other adults held sit-ins at restaurants and lunch counters to protest segregation.


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A historical chapter book series from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author, Patricia C. McKissack.

Why has their grandmother bothered keeping a menu from a restaurant that closed years ago, a restaurant that never served very good food in the first place? Three cousins listen to Gee's own story, set in the early days of lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville, a time when a black child could sit up front in a city bus but still could not get a milk shake at a downtown restaurant. Through the eyes of ten-year-old Abby, young readers see what it was like to live through those days, and they'll come to understand that, like a menu, freedom is about having choices. Each book in this series tells the story behind a different "scrap of time"; together they form a patchwork quilt of one black family's past that stretches back for generations.

"A perfect introduction to an extraordinary time when regular people, even ten-year-old girls, make a difference." -- The Horn Book

"The book gives readers a kid's-eye view of important happenings and reminds them that history is something that is in the making." -- Booklist

Author Notes

Patricia C. McKissack was born in Smyrna, Tennessee on August 9, 1944. She received a bachelor's degree in English from Tennessee State University in 1964 and a master's degree in early childhood literature and media programming from Webster University in 1975. After college, she worked as a junior high school English teacher and a children's book editor at Concordia Publishing.

Since the 1980's, she and her husband Frederick L. McKissack have written over 100 books together. Most of their titles are biographies with a strong focus on African-American themes for young readers. Their early 1990s biography series, Great African Americans included volumes on Frederick Douglass, Marian Anderson, and Paul Robeson. Their other works included Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers and Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States. Over their 30 years of writing together, the couple won many awards including the C.S. Lewis Silver Medal, a Newbery Honor, nine Coretta Scott King Author and Honor awards, the Jane Addams Peace Award, and the NAACP Image Award for Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman?. In 1998, they received the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

She also writes fiction on her own. Her book included Flossie and the Fox, Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt, A Friendship for Today, and Let's Clap, Jump, Sing and Shout; Dance, Spin and Turn It Out! She won the Newberry Honor Book Award and the King Author Award for The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural in 1993 and the Caldecott Medal for Mirandy and Brother Wind. She dead of cardio-respiratory arrest on April 7, 2017 at the age of 72.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

McKissack kicks off the engaging Scraps of Time series with this chapter book, which opens as cousins explore their grandmother Gee's attic, filled with "scraps of time." One such scrap, a menu from The Monkey Bar in Nashville, sparks Gee's memory of a pivotal episode in her childhoodAand in the American civil rights movement. Gee recalls the year 1960 when, as 10-year-old Abby, she is stunned to be turned away from the new restaurant, just because she is black. McKissack gives a clear sense of the racial tenor of the time: though blacks could now sit wherever they liked on busses, segregated schools and "whites only" signs are still the reality. While her cousin organizes lunch-counter sit-ins, Abby passes out flyers advocating nonviolent protests; and after her cousin is arrested, the resolute girl takes her own stand, boldly drinking from a whites-only water fountain. McKissack has a keen sense of her audience: when, in the story's rewarding climax, Abby and her mother eat at the newly integrated Monkey Bar, Abby observes (after sampling the not-so-great food), "I don't think the sit-ins were about the food. I think they were about having choices." The author uses humor and universal experiences of childhood (Abby and her best friend love milkshakes and scary movies) to draw readers into the larger backdrop of history in the making. Back in the present, the cousins' discovery of another mementoAGee's great-grandfather's Civil War medalAsets the scene for the next tale. Ages 8-up. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate) When Mattie Rae and her cousins, exploring their grandmother's attic, find an old menu from The Monkey Bar, a restaurant in Nashville, Gee's memory is stirred and she tells her grandchildren about growing up in 1960s Nashville. Fifth-grader Abby enjoys her life, shopping with her best friend Patsy for just the right notebooks for school and reading Teen magazine. But though the library is open to black people, and Abby and her mom no longer have to move to the back of the bus, there are still segregated water fountains and restaurants, and a trip to Harvey's department store leads to outright humiliation for Abby. McKissack deftly weaves all the familiar details of the time into this entry in the Scraps of Time series for emerging readers: church meetings, the ambivalence in the black community, police brutality, sit-ins, student activism, and the highs and lows of being a young black girl in the changing South. This accessible, lively, and heartfelt chapter book reads like a memoir and makes a perfect introduction to an extraordinary time when regular people, even ten-year-old girls, made a difference. Appended material includes a timeline and a list of ""rules for the Nashville sit-ins."" (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Gr. 2-4. The Scraps of Time series uses family keepsakes as an entre to one black family's past. In this book, Grandma Gee (Abby) has saved a menu from the Monkey Bar Grill in Nashville, and her granddaughters settle in for the story. The action moves back to 1960, when Abby was 10. Although some strides had been made in civil rights, Abby still can't eat at the new circus-themed restaurant in Harvey's Department Store. McKissack does a particularly good job portraying Abby's humiliation and anger when she is ordered to leave the restaurant--after being handed a flyer inviting her in by an unknowing northern white teenager who was working at the store. Those turbulent emotions find a positive channel as she helps an older cousin who is involved with lunch counter sit-ins and demonstrations. Although short and simply told, the book gives readers a kid's-eye view of important happenings and reminds them that history is something that is always in the making. Fine black-and-white art adds to the ambience of the time. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2005 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-4-Grandmother's attic is full of family mementoes that, as Gee tells young cousins Mattie Rae, Aggie, and Trey, are all "scraps of time." A menu from the Monkey Bar restaurant is the basis for this story, which begins with 10-year-old Abby (Gee) in Nashville, TN, in 1960. One day, she wanders around a downtown store as her mother makes an exchange. Someone hands her a flyer advertising a new restaurant with a merry-go-round ride in it, and she decides to go see it. Unfortunately, Abby causes quite a stir when she arrives there. "And you know we don't serve Negroes in here. Have you forgotten your place?" snaps the manager. Abby becomes a civil rights activist as a member of the Flyer Brigade, handing out flyers about nonviolent protest. The story ends with the return to present time and the cousins and Gee looking at other keepsakes, which is the perfect set-up for the next book in the series. Sections entitled "Remembering How It Was" and "The Rules for the Nashville Sit-ins" round off the book. This easy chapter book, with simple sentences, plenty of white space, and a liberal sprinkling of Gordon's expressive black-and-white drawings, is an appealing and welcome title.-Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Maggie Rae and her cousins visit their grandmother's attic to find scraps of time, remembrances from her family's past. A menu from a Nashville restaurant provides the link to 1960 with its lunch-counter sit-ins and store boycotts. Grandmother (Abby) was ten years old that year and very much a part of those events. She experienced the ugliness of segregation, attended meetings, passed out flyers, provided food for the participants and witnessed both defeats and victories. Abby is an engaging character whose sharp observations provide emotional connections and a sense of time and place. McKissack also carefully sets the stage by using the attic device, gently moving the reader from present to past and back again. By personalizing events, historical fiction can bring the past alive for children, whose concept of time is unformed. McKissack succeeds admirably. An excellent introduction to a promising new series. (Historical fiction. 8-12) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.