"No day in all my life had ever been as cruel as this one," Cassie Logan, the young narrator of the novel, observes in one of the earlier chapters of the novel, after her first day visiting a nearby town with her grandmother to sell some farm produce and take care of some legal business, but it might be that her younger brother, Clayton Chester, also known as Little Man, would have the same thoughts in the opening chapter of the story. The Logan kids, Cassie, Little Man, and their other two brothers are walking to school on the dirt roads from their family's farm; it is the first day of school for Little Man, who is a bit obsessive about being clean and neat; as such he is dressed in his best clothes, his shoes polished, and he is painstakingly choosing every step to avoid getting dirty, when the school bus, driven by a white driver, and carrying only white students to the all-white school nearby, purposely picks up speed and flies directly through a huge puddle of water, splashing water and mud all over the children as they tried to scramble away. Little Man is devastated, and cries; but sadly his day is not going to get any better when he and the other African American students are handed throw-away books from the white school, where the name of each student and his or her race is printed in the front, either "white" or "nigra".
Little Man and the next oldest brother, Christopher John, don't have a huge role in the story, but pudgy Christopher John occasionally serves as mild comic relief as he attempts to eat everything he can get his hands on. Little Man's role, however is a bit more heartbreaking as the reader watches him go home from the first day of school absolutely devastated--he had been so excited, and as the novel progresses, we see some troubling, and then downright horrific events unfolding through Cassie's eyes, but occasionally with Little Man's naive commentary. Although he can't fully comprehend what is happening in the community, Little Man's character serves to underscore the childlike innocence that Cassie is losing day by day, incident by incident, in the novel.