- Addy Walker
- Ruth Walker
- Sarah Moore
- Harriet Davis
- Miss Dunn
- Mrs. Ford
- Mr. Cooper
- Reverend Drake
- Mrs. Drake
Only in A New Beginning
- Protagonist: The protagonist is explicitly stated to be African-American. She lives in a medium-sized town in Tennessee and is currently living somewhat separated from her parents, with her father working out of town and her mother working and taking classes simultaneously. She is dealing with the recent change of her grandparents having moved into the house to help with household routines. She's good in math as well as other classes, but is shaken up by the family dynamics that have unsettled her and affected her schoolwork. She also finds herself disappointed by her mother's and grandparents' restrictions on her, and a lack of freedom from over-protectiveness. She travels back into the past with a bronze two-cent piece from 1864 that belonged to her great-great-granduncle Charley Long and currently belongs to her grandfather.
- Dad: Protagonist's father, and the son of Gran and Grandpa. He's started a job hundred of miles away in another state, and so only can come home one weekend a month, causing family strain. The protagonist calls him nightly and has started to talk through Skype.
- Danny: Protagonist's younger brother, who is five years old and nosy. He misses his parents because of their work and studies, and sometimes the protagonist calls him Ducky because of his duck walk. He is interested in coins as much as his grandfather.
- Charley Long: The great-great-granduncle of the protagonist. He was the uncle of the grandfather's grandfather, and fought in the Civil War. A bronze two-cent piece was some of his first pay as a soldier and his mother held on to the coin all through the war to remind her that the war would end and give her hope he would come home. When he came home his mother gave him back the coin, which he then held on himself and carried in his pocket every day. He passed the coin down to his nephew--the grandpa's father, who later passed it to Grandpa. His coin triggers the time travel for the protagonist.
- Gran: Protagonist's grandmother. She and Grandpa have moved in to help in the family. The protagonist feels that she and Grandpa have become more strict since they have moved in. Gran understands the protagonist's unsettlement with her family dynamics not like they used to be and is a touch more sympathetic.
- Grandpa: Protagonist's grandfather. He and Gran have moved in to help in the family. The protagonist feels that he and Gran have become more strict since they have moved in. He is a good cook and interested in history, constantly telling stories of the past and how history is about people, not just dates and events. His grandfather's uncle, Charley Long, fought in the Civil War. He collects old coins and owns the coin that leads to the protagonist's time travel.
- Mom: Protagonist's mother. She's gone back to school to become a teacher and so works all day and goes to either class or studies at night and so is not home at dinnertime much. She's very protective of the protagonist and does not let her travel alone much on her own.
- Nikki: A friend of the protagonist.
- Jordan: A friend of the protagonist.
The character fails a social studies test, which she has never done before (any test). She feels that she has done so badly because she cannot concentrate on studies while her family is in disarray; her mother has returned to school and is busy at nights, and her father has a new job far from home, leading to extended separation from both. Her grandparents have moved in to assist with her and her younger brother Danny. She tells her grandmother about the test, and they talk about things such as people being unable to pursue education in other countries. When she informs her grandparents about the test--partially because Gran and Danny let Grandpa know--her grandfather says that there are consequences and so she's grounded for a week (no after-school visits, video games, TV, or cell phone). This upsets her as she was going to get to got to the ice cream shop that Friday with her friends Nikki and Jordan--a hard-won freedom as her mother is quite overprotective.
Her brother Danny asks her to help with dinner, which she declines as she's upset. She does help set the table, but accidentally sets a place for her mother and father, which upsets Danny greatly. The protagonist feels badly as she removes the extra settings, and they have dinner. After dinner, the protagonist is nervous about her nightly talk with her father (what used to be calls is now a Skype call) and letting him know about her test grade.
After dinner, the protagonist joins Grandpa and Danny; Grandpa has pulled out his coin collection and says that history is more than just dates and is about people. He then opens a coin the protagonist has never seen, a bronze two-cent piece from 1864, and tells the protagonist and Danny about the history of the coin and their family's tie to the Civil War through their great-great-granduncle. The protagonist goes to get ready for her Skype call with her father and changes into her pajamas; she then hears a commotion in the hallway and finds Danny dragging part of the coin collection into his room. She fights him to stop him from doing so, and several coins scatter. The protagonist tells Danny to go get into his pajamas before the Skype call, and he walks off and makes her laugh for a moment before she tells him to wash up.
As she takes the box in her room to sort the coins, the protagonist sees the two-cent piece. She opens the case and, seeing dirt crusted on the date, tries to wipe it off. She is then magically transported to Addy's time and location, on the pier at the docks in older clothing. She observes many things--including clothing styles and horses for transportation--and sees Reverend Drake (whom she doesn't know yet) calling for the newly freedmen to come with him. The protagonist hides, before she spots Addy (again, whom she doesn't know yet) and believes her to be very friendly and warm by her looks. She rubs the coin again to return to her own time at the same moment she left. Puzzled but amazed at the action, she decides to return to the unknown time and rubs the coin once more to return to 1864. She then knots the coin into a scrap of cloth from her shawl and tucks it into her dress pocket to ensure she doesn't lose it. She then makes her way from her hiding spot and towards Addy, but has a nasty encounter with a white man that calls her "colored" and upsets her with his blatant bigotry.
The protagonist looks for Addy again and, spotting her, makes her way over. Addy greets her warmly and introduces herself. She starts to escorts the protagonist along with other new freedmen to the church, believing her to be a newly freed child who escaped to freedom with no one else with her (as the girl states that she has no family with her). When Addy explains how she misses her family, she and the protagonist become friends. Addy informs the protagonist of her family and past multiple times during the events, and feels like she's a sister to her.
After this opening, events vary according to choices made.
- The protagonist and Addy encounter a slave catcher and either escape and arrive at the church or are captured and detained at a slave catcher's office, where they are then rescued by Reverend Drake and Mrs. Walker as freed children and taken back to the church.
- The protagonist spends the night at Addy's garret with her and her mother, noting the family's basic working-class poverty.
- The protagonist and Addy attend Sixth Street School, where the protagonist meets Miss Dunn, Harriet, and Sarah among others. The protagonist encounters several students who are just starting to learn, unfamiliar education methods in the 1860s such as a slate and abacus and past maps of the US, and encounters Sarah as Addy's friend and Harriet's snobby and rude attitude multiple times.
- The protagonist and Addy run two deliveries for Mrs. Ford's Dress Shop. Eleven cents are earned as well as extra bread rolls; the protagonist gives all the money she earns to Addy to help her purchase her lamp.
- The protagonist and Addy can attend a play that they aren't allowed to be at as black children. They either leave when ordered or hide and see the entire play anyways.
- Addy and the protagonist can see Sarah at work at the laundry, who explains that she can't play because of the work needed for her family. Addy passingly considers dropping out of school to help earn money but is talked out of it.
- The protagonist and Addy attend a church gathering where items are being made to earn money for freedmen. Online endings include helping decorate the hall and meeting an elderly freed couple or helping make cookies and playing with children to help keep them from underfoot.
- The protagonist helps Addy contact the Quaker Society and Mr. Cooper to look for her family, either by writing a letter or going in person.
- The protagonist makes a book out of plain brown package paper to gift to Addy, which Addy greatly appreciates.
Regardless of the ending that is arrived at, the protagonist eventually returns to her own time using the coin, and returns at the exact moment she left. She makes proper goodbyes to Addy and often others she has encountered, and generally says she has to go back to her family (which Addy believes she is separated from by escaping to freedom). The protagonist returns with a new-found appreciation of her life. This often includes understanding the privilege of her education opportunities, more personal experience with history and the past (that it's more about people than dates and events on a timeline), direct experience with how freedom can be difficult and a struggle to have, working class poverty struggles and finances, how new things can be challenging to try when, personal displeasure with racial bigotry and separation/restrictions, and/or the understanding mutual ache with Addy and others of missing and separated family.
Discusses opportunities in education for African Americans in the Civil War era. Topics covered:
- The segregation in the North and bigotry from Northerner whites, despite slavery being outlawed in the North since the early 1800s.
- Black children having to attend all-blacks schools with fewer supplies and inferior building conditions than schools for white children.
- Children not being required by law to attend school, and how newly freed people that were eager to learn would attend for a few years.
- Children leaving school at ages twelve or thirteen, with many younger students having to leave in order to help their families earn money.
- Thousands of African Americans who'd learned to read or write, believing that education meant true freedom and that it would leads to better jobs and better lives.
- Many freedman beginning new lives in large northern cities, where many turned to an African-American church for help when they first arrived.
- Church members welcoming new freedman with food, clothing and help adjusting to their lives as free people, and the assistance given by freedmen's aid societies.
- The Quaker Aid Society, a white religious organization that would help reunite freedmen with their families and established the Institute for Colored Youth in 1837.
- The I.C.Y. being the first high school for African Americans and one of the few schools where black students could receive an excellent education.
- Pg 39: "Just inside the door of the church, flyers are posted on the wall. There's one for a benefit for the Freedom Society. It's happening in November. November 1864."
- The book takes place in November, where Addy's Surprise started out; Addy and Momma are saving up tips to buy the oil lamp and only have $1.34 (pg 124), whereas in the beginning of Addy's Surprise, they had $1.57.
- Online endings of the book.
- While technically he is of the past, as he is mentioned by the protagonist and her family he is listed here.