The Lucky Ones by Linda Williams Jackson

Published by Candlewick

Summary:  Ellis Earl lives in grinding poverty in 1967 Mississippi, sharing his three-room shack with his mother, eight siblings, and 3-year-old niece.  He dreams of being a lawyer or teacher one day and is fortunate to have a supportive teacher, Mr. Foster, who does what he can to keep his students fed and in school.  When Mr. Foster gives him a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ellis Earl is delighted to meet a character even worse off than he is who succeeds in turning things around for himself and his family.  Mr. Foster also introduces Ellis Earl to the larger world, first by taking him to his church on Easter and then by inviting some of the class to Jackson to greet Senator Robert Kennedy, who is coming to the Mississippi delta to see firsthand the poverty there.  That trip shows Ellis Earl and his classmates life beyond their small town, but also provides a sobering introduction to hatred and racism.  Through luck and determination Ellis Earl finds his own “golden ticket” that begins to change his and his family’s fortunes.  Includes an author’s note about how her own experiences growing up in Mississippi influenced this book.  310 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  I loved Ellis Earl and his family, who are all portrayed as flawed but loveable characters, there for each other through some pretty terrible times.  The historical information is deftly woven into the story, as are the parallels between Ellis Earl’s story and Charlie Bucket’s.

Cons:  While I do love a happy ending and was delighted with this one, it had a couple of unlikely events occurring in the same month to turn things around for the family.

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