This story is set in New Orleans in the 1930s. Sonny and his mother are scraping by to pay their rent. Mama works in a fish canning factory, and Sonny works for the coal man before school each morning. When Mama loses her job, they no longer have enough money for the rent and fear that the landlord will turn them out. One day Sonny meets Smilin’ Jack, a jazz musician who is playing his trumpet in Jackson Square. Smilin’ Jack offers to play at a party at Sonny’s house to help raise money for the rent. The neighbours all come to sing and dance and before they leave, drop some coins in a bucket. Sonny learns how people can help one another “if they put their minds and hearts to it.”
Smilin’ Jack tells Sonny about the rent parties back in Mississippi. Sonny thinks this is a “mighty fine idea” for paying the rent man. Do you think people in your community would have a rent party today? Why or Why not?
Smilin’ Jack decides to play at least one rent party wherever he goes to show “those rent men how good folks help each other.” How can you use your talents to help people in your neighbourhood?
After the party, Smilin’ Jack tells Sonny, “I sure hope to see you the next time I come to town. I know just where to find you now.” Do you think Sonny sees Smilin’ Jack again?
Unfortunately not the ones with chocolate chips.
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