Chapter 1 summary
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.

Chapter 2 summary
SummaryThe Logans are in the field picking cotton when Papa appears coming down the road. He is home unexpectedly and has brought a guest, Mr. Morrison, with him.

Mr. Morrison has lost his job on the railroad for fighting with white men; he says it was the white men's fault, but, of course, they did not lose their jobs. Cassie senses that Mr. Morrison is there for some reason other than a job.After church the next day, Cassie listens to the adults as they exchange the neighborhood gossip.

One of the Berry men have died; Mrs. Lanier says that the whole incident happened when the Berrys pulled up to a gas pump next to some white men and Henrietta Toggins claimed that one of the Berry men had been flirting with her daughter. The men chased the Berrys dragged them out of a house and set fire to them. As if changing the subject, Papa announces that the Logan family doesn't shop at the Wallace store which is where most of the sharecroppers do their shopping. Papa says that the Wallaces have been selling bootleg liquor to kids and that he doesn't want his children hanging around the Wallaces.

Chapter 3 summary
late fall rains has arrived.

The children trudge to school in the mud, trying to get to the crossroads in time to prevent the Jefferson Davis school bus from spraying them with wet, red mud from the puddles. They are not usually successful. The next day the bus speeds by so close to the them that the children are forced to leap into the ditch to avoid being hit. Stacey figures out a way to get revenge and prevent the splashing from happening again, at least for awhile. At lunch time, he takes Cassie and the boys through the woods to the spot where the bus had splashed them that morning. Using pails and shovels, they dig a ditch all the way across the road and fill it with water.

The plan works even better than they had planned, as continued rain and washout widen their ditch to the proportions of a small lake all the way across the dirt road. The bus driver barrels full speed into the ditch, breaking an axle and getting the bus stuck in the mud. The white children have to walk home in the rain.That evening the children struggle with fits of giggles over their sweet revenge. Their revelry is brought to a halt when Mr. Avery arrives with the news that the night men are riding again.

He mentions the bus driver which makes the kids think that someone knows what they did. They have a miserable, sleepless night, but nothing happens beyond a caravan of cars using their driveway to turn around.

Chapter 4 summary
After the Logan children have moped for a week, expecting any moment to have their secret revealed, T.J. Avery pays a visit to the boys. T.

J. wants them to sneak down to the Wallace store and learn how to do the new dances, but Stacey reminds him that they are not permitted to go there. Failing to bait them with forbidden adventure, T.J. announces that he has the "latest" about the night men.

They had gone to the Tatum place where they had tarred and feathered Mr. Tatum for calling Mr. Barnett a liar. Mr. Barnett (who ran the Mercantile in Strawberry) had charged Tatum for a number of items that were never ordered.

Relieved that it had nothing to do with the bus, the children leave the room to run an errand for Mama-but T.J. does not immediately follow as he says he has to get his hat. A few minutes later they find him in Mama's room looking at her school materials.

He denies looking for answers to an upcoming test, but the implication is that he was doing exactly that.A few days later, T.J. shows them a paper on the way to school. Stacey takes it from him and tears it into little pieces.

At lunch time, T.J. makes a new cheat list. When he sees Mrs. Logan coming toward him during the test, he slips the notes to Stacey who doesn't see his mother coming.

Consequently, Stacey gets the whipping for cheating.After school, T.J. takes off toward the Wallace store. Stacey follows him after trying to tell the other children to go home. They refuse and go with him.

Stacey catches up to T.J. outside the store and a fist fight ensues which is stopped by Mr. Morrison who puts the kids in his wagon and takes them home. He promises not to tell, but only because he is leaving it up to Stacey to tell on himself.

The next evening, Stacey having already told his mother about the incident, Mary takes the kids for a ride to the Berry home. There they meet Mr. Berry who spends his days in the dark and lives in constant pain as a result of the burns inflicted on him. Mary tells the children that the Wallaces did that-which is the reason they no longer go to the Wallace store.

On the way home she stops at the Turner home in an attempt to get them to stop shopping at the Wallace store as well.

Chapter 5 summary
Big Ma makes a trip to Strawberry to sell her butter, milk and eggs. For the first time, Cassie is permitted to go with her along with Stacey and T.J.

. Cassie objects to Big Ma's market spot which is at the end of the market, well away from the main stream of buyers, but Big Ma explains that she has to take the isolated spot because the good spots are the booths for white people.After the marketing, Big Ma has business in Jamison's office. She tells the children to stay in the wagon until she returns. Getting impatient, T.

J. suggests that they go to the Mercantile and look around, arguing that they would be doing Big Ma a favor by ordering up their "stuff." T.J. points out a pearl handled gun that he would like to have, then gives his list to Mr.

Barnett, the storekeeper. Barnett begins to fill the order but stops several times to fill orders for white people.Cassie gets angry because of the white people pushing their list in front of her and steps behind the counter in an attempt to get Mr. Barnett's attention.

Mr. Barnett becomes angry, and orders Stacey to get her out of the store. Despondent, Cassie wanders along the sidewalk and accidentally bumps into Lillian Jean Simms. She apologizes, but Lillian demands that Cassie get off the sidewalk.

Cassie refuses only to have Mr. Simms shove her off the sidewalk in such a way that she falls in the road. Big Ma returns to the wagon intending to go home, but Mr. Simms will not let them go until Cassie makes a humiliating apology to Lillian Jean. Big Ma orders Cassie to say the words Mr.

Simms wants.

Chapter 6 summary
After they arrive home from Strawberry, Stacey talks to Cassie about the incident. She is angry at Big Ma for making her apologize, but Cassie understands why she had to do it.Uncle Hammer has come to visit, driving a new silver Packard nearly identical to the car owned by Mr.

Granger. Hammer asks Cassie about her visit to Strawberry and she tells him about the incident with Lillian Jean in spite of her mother's attempts to stop her. Hammer is angry about the humiliation of Cassie and tries to take off for town, ostensibly to get even with Simms. However, Mr. Morrison jumps into the car just as Hammer is leaving the driveway. Mama is assured the Morrison will bring him back without incident.

In the meantime, she tries to explain why Big Ma forced Cassie to apologize. Cassie objects to having to call Lillian Jean "Miz," but Mama says that it's "the way of things." When Cassie doesn't understand, Mama explains that the white people think they are better just because they are white.She talks about slavery, explaining to Cassie that slavery was justified by people who claimed that people from Africa weren't really people.

Consequently, even though seventy years have passed since slavery, most white people still think of blacks as slightly sub-human. The fact doesn't make it right, but Cassie, as with all people, has a choice of what she will do with her life and how she will live it even though she didn't have a choice about the color of her skin.Hammer returns safely after driving around for hours with Mr. Morrison in the car.

The next morning they all go to church in Uncle Hammer's car, but not before he notices that Stacey really needs a new coat. Hammer gives Stacey his Christmas present early-which just happens to be a new, very expensive wool coat. It's a little big for Stacey, and when T.J. sees him in it, he teases Stacey, calling him "preacher.

"On the ride home from church, Hammer comes to a one lane bridge. Usually the first person to the bridge has leeway, unless that person is black. A black driver will be forced to back all the way off the bridge so a white can cross first. Hammer sees the Wallace truck-loaded with kids-approaching the bridge from the other side and deliberately guns his car. The Wallaces back off the bridge because they think the silver car is Mr.

Granger's. The Logan children are delighted when the Wallace men touch their hats in respect to Mr. Granger, then freeze when they see it is the Logans. Mary Logan gently scolds Hammer, telling him that sooner or later the family will be forced to pay for fooling the Wallaces.

Chapter 7 summary
A few days later, Mama tells Stacey to get his new coat so she can take up the sleeves.

He doesn't have it because he "loaned" it to T.J. who first teased him about its appearance and then offered to wear it until Stacey would grow into it. Mama tells him to go get it, but Hammer interrupts and says that T.J.

can keep the coat permanently because at least he "knows a good thing when he sees it." Stacey tries to explain about being teased, but Hammer calls him a fool for letting T.J. trick him out of something that he should have kept.

He gives Stacey a severe tongue lashing, telling him that if he goes around caring what a lot of useless people say about him, he will never get anywhere. For the last few days before Christmas, T.J. flaunts the coat at school, and Lillian Jean manages to give her superior smirks twice in one week.Papa arrives home the night before Christmas.

The family sits around the fire sharing stories and memories. Mr. Morrison tells the children about his own childhood. He was orphaned when night men attacked his home after his father had taken in two fugitives who had been falsely accused of molesting a white woman.

His sisters as well as his parents had been killed in the blaze of their house, but his mother had thrown him as hard as she could to get him away from the fight and the danger.After the children have gone to bed, the adults sit up discussing the land. Cassie wakes up to hear voices and listens at the door. Big Ma is talking about doing something with the land, and her parents are talking about getting people to shop in Vicksburg rather than patronizing Wallace's store. Papa spots Cassie lurking in the shadow; she asks him if they are going to lose the land and Papa assures her that they will never lose the land.On Christmas morning each Logan child receives a new book and a sock full of candy.

They attend church service, and the Averys join them for dinner. During dinner, little Jeremy Simms pays a visit. He has a bag of nuts for Mama and a handmade flute for Stacey. T.J. goads Stacey about whether he is going to keep the flute, but Stacey doesn't allow himself to be tricked out of the gift.

He doesn't understand why Jeremy brought them the gifts. Papa has no problem with Stacey and Jeremy being friends, but he warns him that when Jeremy grows up, he will think of himself as a man, and Stacey will still be a "boy" to him.The day after Christmas, Mr. Jamison visits Big Ma and arranges a transfer of land ownership from her to David and Hammer. Before leaving, Jamison tells that he has heard of attempts to get credit in Vicksburg and offers to back the credit himself for those who wish to shop there.

He does this to prevent David from putting his land up as collateral and ultimately losing it. In the following days, Hammer, Papa and Mama visit the houses of the families who said they would consider shopping in Vicksburg. Hammer and David make a two day trip to Vicksburg and return with a wagon-load of store bought goods.Mr. Granger shows up shortly after the men return from Vicksburg.

He makes a lot of thinly veiled threats about having to charge people more of their crops to make up for the lower price of cotton and of getting the Logan land. He says that the bank may call up the mortgage any day, implying that he has a lot of pull in that area as well. He also questions Hammer about his ability to get the fancy car, indirectly accusing him of selling drugs for it. Hammer tells him that he has a man's job for a man's wages, and that he doesn't consider 50 cents a day (the price paid to anyone who works in the Granger fields) worthy of a child's labor, never mind a man's.