Levine, Kristin. 2009. Best Bad Luck I Ever Had. Penguin. 264 pages.
I've been wrong before. Oh, heck, if I'm being real honest, I've been wrong a lot. But I ain't never been so wrong as I was about Emma Walker. When she first came to town, I thought she was the worst piece of bad luck I'd had since falling in the outhouse on my birthday. I tell you, things were fine in Moundville before Emma got here, least I thought they were. Guess the truth is, you'll never know how wrong I was till I'm done telling and explaining--so I'd better just get on with the story.
I'll be honest from the start. I love, love, love this book. I do. I mean this is one oh-so-good, oh-so-magical, practically-perfect-in-every way type of book. But that's my opinion.
Our narrator, Harry Otis Sims (aka "Dit") had me at hello. His oh-so-southern voice won me over. I guess maybe this won't appeal to everyone. I mean some people love Southern fiction--books set in the Deep South--and others don't. (This one is set in Alabama.) This one is also historical fiction. So there's that as well.
The year is 1917. (The novel does go into 1918 as well. In fact we see the influenza epidemic come into the story. Winnie's War is set around this same time only in Texas.)
Dit is your typical boy. He's more interested in fishing and playing baseball than almost anything else. And he really wants--more than anything--to have a best friend his own age who shares his interests. That is one reason why he's excited the town is getting a new postmaster. He's hoping he'll have a family, a son, just the right age.
Emma. She's a girl. (Obviously.) And she is colored. (That's the word they use in the book, for the most part.) The Walker family has just moved from Boston. (The postal service has transferred him. He'll be here a year at least.)
What's this small community to make of this new family? What's poor Dit to think of this new girl? Can the two ever be friends? And what would that friendship look like?
I loved Emma. I mean I love, love, loved Emma. I loved how smart she was. I loved her bookishness. I loved how her love of books baffled young Dit. How he just couldn't understand how awesome reading is. I don't want to go into all the details, but I just thought this story had it all.
The characters. The dialogue. The story. Everything just right. Well, almost. I still think the cover could have been better. It's not that the flying bird doesn't work thematically. It's just that it doesn't scream read me, read me. What do you think? Based on the cover alone, would you pick it up?
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