Cover image for Lunch-box dream
Lunch-box dream
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011.
Physical Description:
178 p. ; 21 cm.
Reading Level:
800 L Lexile
Told from multiple points of view, a white family on a 1959 road trip between Ohio and Florida, visiting Civil War battlefields along the way, crosses paths with a black family near Atlanta, where one of their children has gone missing.


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Bobby and his family are visiting Civil War battlefields on the eve of the war's centenary, while inside their car, quiet battles rage. When an accident cuts their trip short, they return home on a bus and witness an incident that threatens to deny a black family seats. What they don't know is the reason for the family's desperation to be on that bus: a few towns away, their child is missing.

Lunch-Box Dream presents Jim Crow, racism, and segregation from multiple perspectives. In this story of witnessing without understanding, a naïvely prejudiced boy, in brief flashes of insight, starts to identify and question his assumptions about race.

Author Notes

Tony Abbott was born in Cleveland, Ohio on January 7, 1952. He attended the University of Connecticut, majoring first in music, then psychology, and finally English. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in English literature. After that, he traveled to Europe before returning home and finding work in a variety of bookstores, a library and at an Internet book and magazine publisher.

His first published book, Danger Guys, was written while taking a writing class with children's author, Patricia Reilly Giff. Since then, he's written over 75 books for children ages 6 to 12, including The Secrets of Droon series, The Haunting of Derek Stone series, and The Time Surfers series. Firegirl won the Golden Kite Award for Fiction in 2007 and The Postcard won the Edgar Award for the Best Juvenile Mystery novel in 2009.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Set in the summer of 1959, Abbott's sophisticated novel explores racial and family tensions, as well as death, through several perspectives. The primary narrator is Bobby, who does not like being around "chocolate" people, and who is on a road trip with his mother and older brother, Ricky, returning his recently widowed grandmother to her home in Florida. As a reward for the long hot drive, they visit Civil War battlefields between Ohio and Florida, feeding Ricky's obsession with the history of that conflict and fueling Bobby's uneasiness around death. Interspersed with the recounting of their journey is the story of a black family in Georgia, movingly told in small fragments by a variety of first-person voices. (The book helpfully opens with a list of the characters and their relationships-an essential resource.) In the final scenes, the separate stories converge, with subtle finesse, in one small, iconic physical gesture. Throughout, Abbott (Firegirl) builds an increasingly disturbing undercurrent of racial conflict, sibling distrust, and marital discord. Although beautifully crafted and written, the book's emotional complexity and unsettling tone will likely prove challenging (in multiple senses of the word) for the target audience. Ages 10-14. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

In 1959, Bobby and his family (who are white) are driving from Ohio to Florida, visiting Civil War battlefields along the way. Interspersed with their story are first-person accounts from relatives of African American Jacob, who has gone missing. The two groups converge on a dramatic bus ride. Issues of racism, family, violence, and death swirl through the story, remaining primarily unresolved at the end. (c) Copyright 2012. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

The segregated South in 1959 is the setting for this intense novel about the journeys of two families, one white, one black, told from multiple viewpoints. Bobby and his older brother, Ricky, are driving with their mother from Cleveland to take their recently widowed Hungarian grandmother home to Florida. Also on the road is Louisa, who is traveling from Atlanta. When her beloved little brother, Jacob, 9, goes missing in Columbus, Ohio, her African American family fears that he is the victim of a hate crime. After Bobby's mother crashes the car, the two families come together on a segregated bus that is so crowded that Louisa and her parents may not be able to board, even at the back. The switches between voices get confusing at times, but each spare chapter is an intense, complex drama of political history and personal conflict, and readers will want to talk about the characters' changing viewpoints, especially Bobby's, as he witnesses the realities of Jim Crow laws and wakes up to his own racism.--Rochman, Haze. Copyright 2010 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-One summer day in 1959, a white middle-class family from Ohio-nine-year-old Bobby, his brother, his mother, and his Hungarian grandmother-sets out to Florida, planning to tour Civil War battlefields along the way. In a parallel story, Jacob, and African-American boy, takes a trip from Atlanta to Dalton, GA, to visit his relatives for a few days. Neither family realizes that their paths will cross in an unexpected way, or that their beliefs and assumptions will be tested. Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South, Tony Abbott's semi-autobiographical tale (Farrar, 2011) of race relations, segregation, and prejudice is juxtaposed with the story of a young boy coming of age. Told from multiple perspectives, this pre-Civil Rights era tale weaves together different strands of life in the South, exploring racism and bigotry. Brian David voices Bobby in a slightly stilted manner, but clearly expresses the turmoil of growing up. The voicing of the other characters, provided by Kevin R. Free and Robin Miles, is more authentic and fluid. A poignant and memorable tale.-Michaela B. Schied, Indian River Middle School, Philadelphia, NY (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

In 1959 on a Civil War battleground tour, a white northern boy has his own prejudices shaken when he sees Jim Crow in action in a Joycean exploration that seems uncertain of its audience.Bobby (of indeterminate age), his Civil Warobsessed older brother, Ricky, and their mother take the scenic route on the way to deliver the boys' grandmother and her car to her home in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, 9-year-old African-American Jacob leaves his sister and her husband in Atlanta to visit relatives in small-town Dalton, Ga., and he's a little unclear about proper behavior around whites. When a combination of stress over marital problems and unnecessary, abject racial terror causes Bobby's mother to total the car in Atlanta, they send Grandma south and, much to Bobby's mortification, book a bus home. Bobby finds himself on the same bus with Jacob's family on an emergency trip to find the boy, who's gone missing, and Bobby's worldview takes an epiphanic hit. The narrative shifts from Bobby's perspective in a focused, third-person voice to the first-person accounts of a number of secondary characters. These voices, particularly those of the African-Americans, are mostly indistinct, their accounts seesawing from elliptical to expository. This, together with historical references that will likely slip past children and sometimes tortured syntax, derails prolific series fantasist Abbott's (The Secrets of Droon) attempt at an autobiographical historical novel.A laudable attempt to address an unfortunately still-timely subject, this novel feels more like a Modernist experiment than a children's book.(Historical fiction. 9-12)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



Thursday, June 11, 1959 LUNCH-BOX DREAM (Chapter One)Bobby They called them chocolate men, Bobby and his brother. You didn't see them on the East Side, high over Euclid, except once or twice a week and only early in the morning. Where did they come from? There were no chocolate boys and girls in his school or at church. There were no chocolate ladies living in his neighborhood. There were no chocolate families at the park or the outdoor theater or the ball field. And yet the men came every week to his house. That morning, as he lay on the grass by the sidewalk, Bobby heard them coming again. First there was the roar and squeal of the big truck. That was far up the street. It was early, the time when the sun edged over the rooftops, but warm for the middle of June. Bobby was sharpening Popsicle sticks into little knives while his brother watched. "Hurry up," Ricky said. Or not, thought Bobby. You have to do this properly. To sharpen a stick correctly you scraped it slantways against the sidewalk seams, and it took a while. With each stroke, you drew the stick toward you or pushed it away from you in a curving motion, like a barber stropping his razor in a Western movie. Bobby wanted a thin blade, and his cheek was right down there above the sidewalk, with one eye squeezed shut to focus on the motion of his hand. The concrete scratched his knuckles, whited his skin, but you had to do it that way. You needed to scrape the stick nearly flat against the sidewalk to give you the thinnest blade. Bobby would use the knife for little things. It could be a tool, or a weapon in a soldier game; it might be used to carve modeling clay, or as a casually found stick that on the utterance of a secret phrase became a lost cutlass of legend; or as a makeshift sidearm for defense on the schoolyard; or as nothing much, a thing to stab trees with or to jab into the ground to unearth bugs and roots or to press against your pocketed palm as you walked through stores downtown. If his mother found one, she tossed it away. Or he suspected she did. He had seen his sticks snapped in half in the wastebasket and he didn't think his brother threw them there. It was Ricky who had taught him how to shape the knives, though he didn't make them himself anymore. And it wasn't their father, because he was hardly home these days. "Hurry up," Ricky said. "This one will be good," said Bobby, taking his time to get the sharpest edge. "Maybe my best." The truck moved, then stopped, then moved and stopped closer. The boys looked up. They watched the chocolate men jump off the sides of the truck. The ash cans were loud when they scraped them over the sidewalk and into the street, dragging them with leathery hands. Their yelling was not like the sound of the brown men and women who sang and played pianos on television. They approached, crisscrossing the sidewalk. "That's it," said Ricky. "I don't want to be here when they come. I'm going in." Bobby scooped up his knives, and the two boys ran inside. Ricky, a year older, was faster. They pulled the living room drapes aside and through the big window saw their cans being scraped and lifted. "That one guy's huge." "Did you see that? He took both Downings' cans at the same time." Thick bare brown arms raised and shook the cans, the truck swallowed the trash, the cans were swung back and set down, and the men were on to the next house and the next. The boys watched from the picture window until the men disappeared down Cliffview to wherever they had come from. "Let's go out back," said Ricky. "I want to watch TV," Bobby said. "No, let's go out back. I have a tennis ball." "Bring the cans into the carport, please," said their mother. "Then breakfast. I have something to tell you." "In a minute, Mom," Ricky called. To Bobby he said: "Let's go out back first." "Yeah, okay." LUNCH-BOX DREAM Copyright (c) 2011 by Tony Abbott Excerpted from Lunch-Box Dream by Tony Abbott All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.