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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
The story opens with the Logan children on their way to school. They are walking which is usual, but as it is the first day of school, they are also wearing their best clothes and shoes Usually they go to school barefoot. Little Man, the youngest is slowing everyone down because he is trying not to get any dirt on his clothes. The children are Little Man, Christopher John, Cassie, the main character of the story, and Stacey, the oldest boy. We receive a little background- information about the surrounding land which is occupied by tenant farmers in contrast to the Logan land which is actually owned by the family. Papa works out of town in order to make enough money to pay the taxes on the land.
Part way through the Granger land, the Logans are joined by T.J. Avery, son of one of Granger’s tenant farmers. T.J. is repeating his class (which is taught by Mary Logan) because he had failed the previous year. On the way to school he informs the Logan of the "burning." Although he doesn’t know "why," T.J. does know that on the previous night some white men had poured kerosene on the Berry men (another tenant family) and then lit a match to them.
Before the children can reach a crossroads where a bus load of white children regularly turns off toward the white school, the bus appears. The driver deliberately races by the children at an unreasonable speed so he can cover the Logans with dust. Attempts to get onto the bank in time to get out of the way are unsuccessful. They are dusting themselves off and cursing the bus when another friend, a little white boy named Jeremy Simms comes off of a forest path and walks as far as the cross roads with them.
The kids attend the Great Faith Elementary and Secondary School. Most of the children are from sharecropper families. The highlight of the first day of school is that all the children will have books this year. However, the books are 11 year old rejects from the white school. Little Man feels insulted and refuses the dirty, worn books. Cassie defends him and they both get paddled. After school, Miss. Crocker reports the incident to Mary Logan, whereupon Mary not only defends her kids, but pastes brown paper over the telling labels of the books for her own students.
This chapter not only introduces the major characters, but also sets up the complications that will unfold as the story progresses. Cassie, the protagonist, is a 9 year old girl who is just beginning to awaken to some of the injustices continually perpetrated against the sharecropper families around her. The school girl trivialities of who is going to sit where pale against the insult of being given a book labeled "nigra" after 10 years of white students had already used it. Stacey, age 13, is the oldest boy and looks after his younger siblings to the best of his ability.
Little Man is characterized by his passion for cleanliness, an attribute which makes the dirty books that much more repulsive to him. Mary Logan is a soft-spoken woman who thinks things through before drawing conclusions. T.J., a rather cocky 14 year old and friend of Stacey’s, is always bursting with new information and doesn’t hesitate to make up a story to protect himself. He is not particularly honest, but he doesn’t mean any harm to anyone either. His major problem is that he has poor judgement and fails to recognize when white boys with whom he wants to be friends are merely using him.