I'm not sure how many of today's youth can identify with Tommy's beatings, but certainly their grandparents could relate their disciplinary experience which often involved being beaten, and sometimes with a belt. The reader certainly feels empathy for Tommy and his untenable home life. After his sister, Mary Lou, is badly burned doing his chore, his mother's angry yelling and throwing things turns to beatings. Tommy, a bully, and his friend, Eddie, steal yo-yo's from Mr. McKenzie's store. When Tommy is disciplined and made to work Saturdays at the store, he decides to strike out at the store owner by leaving a communist newspaper, he found on a collection drive, in his store. This is McCarthy era America and the rumors and accusations severely affect Mr. McKenzie's business. Tommy is determined to discover the identity of the communist. He wants to be an honorable cowboy, like Gary Cooper in High Noon...a hero. Instead, he makes friends and accomplishes miracles.
Mark Twain Award Preliminary Nominee 2016-17