The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963
by Christopher Paul Curtis
When Rufus comes on the scene, Kenny expects the other kids to tear him to pieces in two seconds flat:
I knew they weren't going to waste any time with this new guy, it was going to be real easy and real quick with him. He was like nobody we'd seen before. He was raggedy, he was country, he was skinny and he was smiling at everybody a mile a minute. (2.50)
Rufus is a classic outcast. For one thing, he's the new kid at school. His family just moved to Flint from Arkansas where people apparently shoot and eat squirrels with some regularity. Um, right. On top of that, Rufus talks funny (a.k.a. with a Southern accent), he wears the same two outfits every day to school, and he's extremely poor.
None of that seems to bother Rufus too much though, as long as he's got one good friend he can count on, and that friend (after a somewhat reluctant start) turns out to be Kenny. Kenny shares his lunch with Rufus and his brother Cody every day (with some thanks to Momma who starts packing him extra sandwiches) while Rufus talks his ear off. The two of them sit together on the bus and at school and they play dinosaurs most days after school.
Things are pretty great until the day Kenny joins in laughing when Larry Dunn makes a crack about Rufus always wearing the same clothes. Ouch. Rufus may be poor and an outcast, but he knows he deserves better than that. He cuts Kenny off cold, and we gotta say, Kenny deserves it for this one. Fortunately, Rufus is pretty much the best kind of friend you could ask for. He gives Kenny a chance to apologize and forgives him and they go on being best friends.
Even better than that, Kenny learns a pretty important lesson on loyalty here, and it's all thanks to Rufus.