Reviews for Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

Booklist Reviews 2008 November #2
While most of the residents in the tiny, World War I-era Moundville, Alabama, are shocked that their new postmaster is African American, Dit is simply surprised that said postmaster s child turns out to be a girl, not the boy his own age he was expecting. Bookish, timid Emma can hardly fill the role of fellow adventurer and baseball player that easygoing Dit, with more than a trace of a Huck Finn-like charm, had his heart set on. In unexpected ways, though, the unlikely twosome cross each other s paths and slowly build a partnership of complementary strengths. When Jim Crow rears its ugly head in the person of the menacing and blatantly racist sheriff, Emma and Dit embark on a risky adventure to save the life of a man sentenced to hang on trumped-up charges. Levine s story treats racism frankly and with no mincing of words. The highlight of this coming-of-age journey comes from watching the two kids learn about the world and come to care about each other in the way of 13-year-olds. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #3
Rumor has it that Moundville's new postmaster is bringing along his son, so twelve-year-old Dit, looking forward to making a new friend, is less than pleased that the new kid is in fact a girl. He is also surprised that Emma and her parents are "Negras," but for Dit this is less of an issue than her gender, which itself might not be so bad if Emma weren't such a prissy bookworm. In a first novel written with the easy warmth and wit of Richard Peck's Blossom Culp stories, Levine smoothly charts the growth of Dit and Emma's unlikely friendship against the background of WWI-era small-town Alabama. A broadly drawn Southern sheriff aside, the Jim Crow dictates of the era are pervasively but gently-sometimes too gently-rendered. Each chapter is beautifully shaped, and Dit's narration is distinct and fluently homespun. If the climax of the story (involving a jail cell rescue and faked death) seems more Mark Twain than Harper Lee, it is nevertheless a triumph for two characters who have earned our affection. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 December #1
When 12-year-old Emma Walker comes to Moundville, Ala., with her father, the new postmaster, Harry "Dit" Sims feels it's "the worst piece of bad luck" he's ever had. He was hoping for a boy to play ball with but got a "colored" girl instead. But he teaches her to throw and hit a baseball and how to dig a cave, and she teaches him about math and books. Gradually they become best friends and even allies in the rescue of a black barber unjustly jailed and sentenced to hang. Levine draws on her grandfather's recollections to skillfully delineate the nuances of race relations in a small Southern town in 1917, where kindness and politeness sometimes trumped prejudice and ordinary people found ways to treat each other decently. Dit and Emma are likable protagonists, and the growth of their friendship, along with Dit's emerging moral conscience, make this a fine debut novel by an author to watch. (Historical fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 December #3

Tension builds just below the surface of this energetic, seamlessly narrated first novel set in small-town Alabama in 1917. Twelve-year-old Harry, aka Dit, has been looking forward to the arrival of the new postmaster from Boston, said to have a son Dit's age. The "son" turns out to be a girl, Emma, and to everyone's surprise, the family is what Dit calls "colored" and others call "Negras." Emma, bookish and proud, impresses Dit with her determination (he calls it stubbornness) when she decides to learn to throw a ball or climb, and when Emma's mother upbraids him, Dit begins to rethink what he's been taught about the South's sorrowful defeat in the War Between the States. Levine sets up a climactic tragedy that will challenge the community's sense of justice; although hair-raising Mockingbird-esque events are becoming common in YA novels about inequality in the segregated South, Levine handles the setting with grace and nuance. Without compromising the virtues and vices of her characters, she lets her readers have a happy-enough ending. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 January

Gr 6-9--This spirited, early-20th-century coming-of-age story presents a small-town cast of well-drawn characters, an unlikely friendship, engaging adventures, and poignant realizations. When a new postmaster arrives in Moundville, AL, 12-year-old Dit is surprised to discover that Mr. Walker is African American and that his refined daughter knows nothing about baseball, hunting, or fishing. With his best friend gone for the summer and in search of companionship other than his nine siblings he reluctantly hangs out with proper, opinionated Emma, who tags along with him asking questions and trying to keep up. Gradually, Dit begins to respect her independence, intelligence, compassion, and determination. But the harsh realities of segregation and racist attitudes threaten their friendship and open Dit's eyes to injustice. After witnessing the town barber's self-defense shooting of the alcoholic and abusive sheriff, Dit and Emma hatch a plan to save the black man's life. Dit's episodic story resonates with youthful authenticity. Peer pressure and racial barbs weigh on his competitive but sensitive spirit. Dit's insular world expands on drives to Selma with Dr. Griffiths, when the influenza epidemic of 1918 invades Moundville, during his pa's shotgun vigil to protect neighbors from nightriders, and in his shared exploits and lively discussions with Emma. Adult characters offer a range of guidance, perspective, and tolerance that helps shape Dit's understanding of his world. Readers will find humor in his candid account, universality in his dilemmas and blunders, and inspiration in his friendship with Emma and their mutual desire for social justice.--Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC

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VOYA Reviews 2009 April
Dit Sims and Emma Walker are unlikely friends. He has nine siblings; she is an only child. He is a white farm boy with an accurate fastball who loves to hunt and fish. She is a black girl who plays the piano and reads. But in 1917, the two thirteen-year-olds from a rural Alabama town learn the meaning of true friendship. When the black barber in town kills an abusive sheriff in self-defense but is convicted of murder, the two devise a daring scheme to save him from being hanged Levine creates a truly memorable character in Dit Sims. As he struggles with inequality and prejudice in his small town, readers are given a snapshot of the racial segregation and hatred that was pervasive in the South at this time. Levine poignantly captures the thoughts and fears of a young boy as Dit deals with changes in things he has come to accept, realizes the redemptive value of truthfulness, and discovers that friendship with an unlikely girl has forced him to look at things and evaluate his actions with a new perspective. Through beautifully written prose capable of creating indelible images, readers are caught up in the action wondering how things will turn out. And just when it seems the story has come to a conclusion, Levine provides a final scene that is both unsuspected and beautiful. This classic story of how unlikely persons can change things for the better should appeal to all readers.--Chris Carlson 5Q 4P M J S Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.