Thursday, April 17, 2014



Thirteen-year-old Mitchell Jackson is caught in the crossfire between his peacemaking Mama and his civil rights activities Papa. Should he wait for the change? Or force it? Mitchell always relied on Grandpa to help him understand life, but during the time of Papa’s heated civil rights battles, Mitchell has to make his own decision—Grandpa is gone.

Mitchell is given Grandpa’s Hohner harmonica as a memorial keepsake, and remembers how Grandpa played it to keep peace in the family. Mitchell is determined to “work the magic” of that harmonica, too. He struggles to understand Papa’s “civil rights drive”, until he remembers how Grandpa took notes from President Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address and kept them in his Bible. Mitchell retrieves the notes and studies them. As Mitchell awaits the “change” that Grandpa assured him was coming, he befriends Grandpa’s old friend, Mr. Willie Barnes. The change comes sooner than Mitchell thinks when Papa tells the family of President Lyndon B. Johnson passing the Civil Rights Act. Papa offers Mitchell the opportunity to attend an all-white Belvoir High in the fall, and Mitchell impulsively agrees. Mitchell’s torn with his decision, as it yanks his family further apart, and shatters his friendship with his white neighbor, Billy Jones. Mitchell depends on Mr. Willie’s musical analogies of the world and snippets of President Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address for inspiration and guidance. Over the summer, Mitchell denounces Billy’s friendship and chooses to face his challenge alone. As tensions mount, the cost of making a change in a stubborn community is high. Mitchell discovers that he’ll need more than family and music to retain his courage—he’ll need Billy’s friendship.


Not much spooked me. At least not until I opened the little black harmonica case. Grandpa’s old Hohner sent chills slithering up my spine. Must’ve been the lining of the case. It looked coffin-like. Yeah, that must’ve been what gave me the creeps. That harmonica reminded me too much of Grandpa—lying peacefully.

Mama gave me Grandpa’s harmonica a month ago. Couldn’t stand the sight of it, so I just shoved it into my sock drawer. Don’t know what possessed me to pull it out now, but I wished I had kept it closed.

Grandpa made low melodies sneak out of that Hohner as smooth as a baby’s lullaby. Then he’d surprise us with wavy, high-pitched notes that told our feet to pat. He always played from his heart. When his heart stopped, I wondered if the miracle of that harmonica had stopped too.

I ran my fingers lightly across the burgundy velvet lining, building up my courage to touch it. I slowly curved them over the harmonica, then—

The screen door banged shut. “Oh, Lord, have mercy,” Mama wailed from the kitchen, “Lord help us.”

My heart dropped to my stomach, just like it did when Grandpa died. I snapped the case shut—afraid to move.

“Mitchell! Mitchell!” Mama’s voice was urgent.

I jammed the case back into my sock drawer and took off down the hall. The sight of my older brother, Ray, froze me in my tracks. He sat slumped in a chair. If it wasn’t for his two friends supporting him, he would’ve hit the floor for sure.


  1. Love this opening image. Good luck because I want to read this someday!

  2. I like your first page! Good luck!