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Calo's first friend and Patricia's brother, Charles is the ringleader of the small group of alligator hunters in Tallulah. He is African-American, picks cotton and does other small jobs for pay, and goes to the school below the church because education matters to him. He is a hard worker, to say the least, and pretty friendly, though he never stops giving Calo a hard time. He serves as a bridge between Calo's small Sicilian world and the world of Black people in their community, and in doing so, broadens the social lives of Calo and his family.
Charles's best buddies, Ben and Rock, are always around and provide good humor or witty remarks that make the threesome fun to read about. Calo likes Rock the most, because he is the nicest, and Ben the least, because he is more sarcastic and bitter.
Giuseppe, Carlo, and Rosario are supportive characters and, like Francesco, Calo calls them each uncle even though they aren't blood relations. They help to guide and punish Calo, but only in minor ways since Francesco is the boss of pretty much everyone and everything. Carlo is the cook, and brings a far more supportive and peaceful demeanor to the household than any of the other uncles. All together, though, they provide a family for Calogero.
Frank Raymond brings Calo to meet Joseph, who is his friend and mentor, in addition to being the only remaining member of the Tunica tribe. Joseph is kind and smart, and spends the afternoon answering Calo's questions the first time he meets him and teaching him to make a bowl. Calo returns to Joseph's house for help twice, and both times Joseph comes through for him. He is a safe-space for Calogero in this story, and plays a key role in helping him escape to safety at the end.
There are a lot of white characters that we only meet once or twice—and then only briefly—so we are lumping them all together here. We hope you don't mind—they pretty much earn getting heaped together anyway since they turn into one swirling, angry mob at the end of the story. These lovely characters provide the evil element to the story; they are generally racist, snide, insulting, and just flat out mean. They help us see the build-up of resentment and fear surrounding the Sicilian family in Tallulah, and consistently remind us that 1899 was a fiercely racist time in U.S. history.
Dr. Hodge is the white doctor who lives nearby, and whom Francesco mistakes as an ally—any civility Dr. Hodge shows, though, is only in the name of trying to get a good night's sleep for once (if only Francesco would keep his goats off the doctor's porch at night). Dr. Hodge gets fed up with his requests for quiet being ignored though, and in anger and desperation, shoots Francesco's best goats. From here things go from bad to worse—Dr. Hodge beats Giuseppe, shoots at Rosario, and winds up shot himself. He doesn't die, but the mob decides to act as though he's been killed anyway, and rounds up Calo's entire family for execution. Gee thanks, Doc.
Calogero's cousin is sly, risky, fun, brave, and adventurous. He pulls Calo into a few dangerous situations and ends up using him to make friends, but nonetheless, he is Calo's closest friend in Louisiana. They even share a bed. Calo misses his brother, and Cirone is an excellent stand-in.
Blander is a brief and cursory character, but important since he is the only other white man who accepts Calo and tries to help his family get justice at the end of the book.
Beppe and Salvatore are a Sicilian duo, friends with Calo's family, and live a town over. They are nice to Calo when he visits them and do pretty well in the town they live in. They receive warning about the mob and manage to escape to safety at the end of the book.
Lila works for the nasty Mrs. Rogers, which is probably a pretty awful way to spend her days. She comes through for Calo and Cirone when she catches some mean white boys beating them up, and she is clever enough to convince them to stop and let the boys go home.
Although we never meet him, he is an important part of this story. He is Calogero's brother, and he misses him a lot and can't wait to see him again. When Calo escapes on the river at the end of the book, he intends to go find his bro. So though the family Calo's been living with has been killed, at least he has someone else to look forward to seeing.
We don't get to meet Calogero's mother, but she is always with him. He misses her and does things—like study—in her honor.