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Lunch-Box Dream

2.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  253 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
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, the ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published July 19th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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Newbery 2012
101st out of 141 books — 718 voters
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Children's Novels about Segregation & Integration
8th out of 40 books — 12 voters

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Community Reviews

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Oct 07, 2011 Wendy rated it it was ok
I don't know what this book is supposed to be, or when I've read a children's book that seems so wildly unappealing to children. Almost all the characters are thoroughly unpleasant, the protagonist is weirdly obsessed with black people in a way that seems unrealistic (his very first reaction to the idea of a bus trip is ugh because they'll have to ride with black--pardon, "chocolate" people?), false drama is created, and there's a vaguely creepy ultimate scene where the child protagonist deigns ...more
Feb 27, 2012 Angie rated it it was ok
Bobby and his family take a trip south to see the Civil War battlefields. Jacob is spending the summer with his aunt and uncle. This book is told from various narrators perspectives and it makes for a very disjointed telling. It is supposed to highlight Jim Crow laws in the South during the 1950s and it does a bit, but it isn't a very effective story. Bobby is obsessed with death and "chocolate" people. His mom actually wrecks her car to get away from a couple of African Americans (who aren't do ...more
Sep 23, 2011 Amy rated it it was ok
Shelves: children, tween-novel
This didn't work. The novel takes place in 1959 and was written to demonstrate Jim Crow laws in the South. Mr. Abbott splits his tale into several narrators (members of a white family and a black family)and how their lives intertwine. I found it all quite messy to follow. Each family and their story is compelling and would most likely make a good novel on their own but putting them together gave me a migrane. I'm afraid there are so many distractions with the various plots, that young readers wi ...more
Mar 10, 2012 Carrie rated it did not like it
I was expecting much more from this book, and it disappointed terribly. I thought there'd be more learning by the young boys from Ohio. I thought there'd be more interaction between the two groups of people. The interaction consisted of alternating chapters. I guess I either didn't get what the author was trying to do, or I couldn't get past what I expected of the book.
Betsey Brannen
Apr 03, 2016 Betsey Brannen rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
I'm trying to figure out why this book gets such bad reviews. I actually really enjoyed it.

I liked the dichotomy of the families. White, middle-class, miserable, and unloving, vs. black, poor, and close knit family.

To see the Jim Crow laws of the 1950's through the eyes of a child is rather unlike anything you'll ever understand or know.
Nov 17, 2011 Shelley rated it it was ok
About ten characters in two different families are telling their stories during a summer in 1959. The stories briefly, nearly touch for about two pages. I do not know why this book was written or who would like it.

1.5 stars? I don't want to just give it one, I reserve that for books that I actively dislike.

Lunch-Box Dreams presents Jim Crow, racism, and segregation from multiple perspectives. The year is 1959, and two interwoven narratives tell a coming-of-age story. The main characters are two grade-school age white boys from Ohio on a road trip with their mother and grandmother, visiting Civil War battlefields on the eve of the war’s centenary. Ricky is sensitive, thoughtful and deeply curious. His brother Bobby, the self-proclaimed “bad one,” is naively prejudiced and quite unlikeable- at least ...more
Jenna Zuckerman
"Lunch-Box Dream" by Tony Abbott is a historical fiction book that can be used throughout the classroom. This particular book is about a character Bobby who is on a trip to visit Civil War battlefields with his mother and older brother. He is not comfortable around "chocolate colored" people or death sightings, so this specific trip is difficult for him to undergo. Within the story about Bobby and his family, there is a story of a black family in Georgia told from several first-person viewpoints ...more
Ruth Aileen
Sep 20, 2015 Ruth Aileen rated it did not like it
This book was terrible. It was hard to read and I lost track of what was going on.
Mary Ann
Inspired by his own childhood trip touring the Civil War battlefields in June 1959, Abbott (Firegirl, Little Brown, 2006; and the Secrets of Droon series, Scholastic) crafts a spare, yet complex tale of the segregated South in the late 1950s. Bobby and his family are traveling from Ohio to Florida, visiting Civil War battlefields as they take his grandmother back to St. Petersburg. Above all, Bobby is an observer, a child who watches everyone around him, thinking and wondering, but only occasion ...more
Mar 05, 2013 Pam rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books-ya
Tony Abbott manages to weave several plot lines and two historical tales in this wonderful novel. It is 1959 and a white family from Ohio sets off on a trip to Florida. One of the two brothers is a Civil War enthusiast so the family plans visits to battlefields on the way. The black family's trip involves the young son going to Ohio from Atlanta to visit relatives "in the country." How the journeys become interwoven is the result of the segregated/Jim Crow policies, as well as several misunderst ...more
Oct 27, 2011 David rated it liked it
Lunch-Box Dream by Tony Abbott is an historical fiction novel set in 1959 following two families and segregation, Jim Crow, and racism from multiple perspectives.

Naive Bobby and his family from Ohio are visiting Civil War battlefields and taking their mother to Florida, while quiet battles rage inside their car. After an accident cuts their trip short, they go to return home by bus and witness an incident that threatens to deny a black family seats on the bus. They don't realize that the family
Sep 17, 2011 Kristie rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I was fortunate to have received this book as a First Reads. If you are a fan of historical fiction and enjoy reading young adult books then this is a good choice. There do not seem to be many books in this genre for this age so I appreciate Mr. Abbott's writings.

I had my 13 year old read it before me and he enjoyed the story (because he loves social studies) but was a little confused about the characters. I was too, but luckily Mr. Abbott included a list of characters and their relationships at
Barb Middleton
Apr 10, 2012 Barb Middleton rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
There's no arguing that Tony Abbott has beautiful writing. He can take a moment and stretch it into a melodramatic and moving sequence of images. His love of trains is obvious from The Haunting of Derek Stone series to his latest novel, Lunch-Box Dream:

"'There they are! The tracks. I see them. Drive across.' And she drove the car forward on the flat road, nearly stopping where the dark rails sliced it, then rolled over them without power, until horns started honking behind them and they had to
Oct 03, 2011 Becky rated it it was ok
Ages 10-14. It's 1959, and at first Bobby is excited to go with his mother and brother Ricky to return their grandmother to Florida from Ohio, even if it means visiting all the Civil War battlefields between here and there because Ricky is obsessed with them. Then Bobby realizes that the car he's riding is the same car that killed his grandfather, then they cross the railroad tracks where Lincoln's funeral procession passed over, and the thoughts of all the dead bodies crowding the battlefields ...more
Oct 01, 2011 Susan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: 6th through 9th grade
Shelves: middle-grades
While the mix of stories did not work all that well, I still gave the book five stars for the depth of the plot. This was 1960, and many white families truly did not understand anyone outside their race. They didn't mean anything by it; they weren't made to understand, they weren't exposed to anyone outside their race, and they weren't corrected much when they called anyone with darker skin "chocolates." I have a problem with reviewers who pan a book and then say it was set in 1952! Get your fac ...more
Books Kids Like
Oct 17, 2015 Books Kids Like rated it really liked it
Shelves: abbott-tony
Bobby, his mother, and his older brother are taking Grandmother and her car to Florida. Starting in Ohio, they visit various Civil War sites because of Ricky’s obsession with that historical period. Bobby feels detached from his brother’s enthusiasm, but thoughts of President Lincoln’s assassination, Grandfather’s fatal heart attack several months before, and the grizzly deaths of so many Civil War soldiers begin merging in Bobby’s mind. For the first time in his life, he begins to see a world o ...more
Mz. Diana Gagliardi
Apr 10, 2015 Mz. Diana Gagliardi rated it liked it
This book was dense enough and with enough other things going on that I had actually forgotten that I had read it until I got to the very end (and still didn't remember what the outcome was going to be).

Bobby and his brother, mother, and grandmother are driving his late grandfather's car to Florida with the promise of an airplane ride home. Ricky, brother, is thrilled to be driving through the south, as an avid Civil War buff.

The more realistic of uncomfortable feelings than I would ha
This is possibly the most disappointing book I have ever read. Maybe it's because I was told to read it, or because I had something better to read but I had to force myself to devote my time to this, but I mainly disliked it because there was NO PLOT. Like, at all. The "plot" they describe in the back of the book happens literally in the last 40 pages. Plus, all the characters were SO IRRELEVANT. Half of the time, they were talking about unnecessary things, like Bobby describing his brother's co ...more
Jan 25, 2015 MatthewM. rated it it was ok
This book is ok and I can explain why. Its not fantastic the story is a little boring at times but it doesn't get to my expectation of exciting reading. This book can be better in my eyes but it is good in the sense of the racism fact that is in this book. Other then that this book isn't that great and I don't recommend it.
Jul 25, 2011 Ryan rated it liked it
The best description is that I was looking in on someone else's dream, and that someone else was a child. All the parts that would have provided me with context were viewed from a different perspective so they looked different, unfamiliar. Kids see the world from the back seat of cars and I've not sat in the back seat in years. Details that raised questions for me seemed relatively unimportant to the characters so I was left wondering what would happen, but not about anything being told. More re ...more
Vanessa West
Nov 21, 2013 Vanessa West rated it liked it
Lunch Box Dream is an historical fiction book that is intended for children between the ages of ten and fourteen years old. The book is about a boy names Bobby and his family experiencing some uncomfortable situations on their trip to take their Grandmother back to Florida, but they also stop along the way to visit Civil War battlefields. Tony Abott does a good job bringing conflicts of the 1950’s to life and describing how people feel in these situations. The plot of the story takes a little wh ...more
Jan 18, 2012 Angie rated it it was ok
Shelves: classroom, ya-teen-ms
I picked this up in hopes of using it as a literature circle book as part of the Civil Rights unit I do with my 8th graders, and I have to say it wasn't what I thought it would be, or hoped it would be.

The book is told in both third and first person. A Caucasian family's trip from Ohio to Florida is told in third person, while the African American family's stories are told in first person, with each character having a chapter. The first 2/3 of the book is actually rich in Civil War facts and inf
Apr 07, 2012 Angelica rated it it was amazing
Lunch-Box Dream is such a touching book. It is about 2 stories of 2 diffenrent races, one white and one black. In the (white) family we have a Grandma, Mom, Brother named Ricky and another brother named Bobby. It takes place in Cleveland, Ohio. Bobby has had a hard time trying to live on though life without his Grandpa, he is scard for life of his 1st death from his Grandpa. So almost in each chapter he is haunted by death and he has to go though some really bad times.
In the (black) family there
Reader Girl
Feb 12, 2016 Reader Girl rated it it was ok
Shelves: yf
I thought the book was very disjointed. At the beginning, it was difficult to distinguish Bobby and Ricky. The allusion to poor relationships with Bobby's father don't really play into the main story line. I don't really get how Bobby's experiences are related to Jacob's family's. I think there's a good story in this book somewhere, but it needs a lot of editing. I think it's confusing to provide the viewpoints of so many members of Jacob's family, particularly when it's not quite clear who ever ...more
Nov 21, 2011 MaryJane rated it really liked it
I picked this book up because of the cover and the title and the author's name. I liked Firegirl by Tony Abbott. I checked it out of the library because it examines the relationships of people in 1959 - black/white, North/South - and I am always looking for good material for 6-8th graders about the Civil Rights movement. For me, parts of the storyline got lost, and I had to check back to see who was who, because I was reading this in bits and pieces. I'm going to give this a second reading, this ...more
Mrs. Ehlers
Jan 22, 2016 Mrs. Ehlers rated it really liked it
A historical fiction story told thru the eyes of a black family and a white family. readers will learn about race relations and segregation. This story starts out slow so give it 50 pages before you decide if its for you.
Shannon Clark
Aug 05, 2012 Shannon Clark rated it liked it
Shelves: not-reviewed-yet
This is sort of a tough one for me to review. While I liked the concept/topic of the book being that it is set back in 1959 with segregation (which would be great for my 5/6 graders to read about), it was confusing for me as I read since each chapter was written from a different character's point of view. That would be a good thing IF it wasn't so confusing to keep up with. I felt like I got to know Bobby, Ricky, and their family more than Cora, Herschel, and Jacob's family.

The writing just see
Mar 11, 2015 Darrie-Ann rated it liked it
I was left wanting more story, but found the ending too abrupt.
After letting us get interested in the characters, it all just rushes to a close.
Not great. There's a whole lot of "means well" and not a whole lot of good execution.
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Tony Abbott (born 1952) is an American author of children's books. His most popular work is the book series The Secrets of Droon, which includes over 40 books. He has sold over 12 million copies of his books and they have been translated into several other languages, including Italian, Spanish, Korean, French, Japanese, Polish, Turkish, and Russian. He has also written the bestseller "Firegirl".
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