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The Gold Cadillac

by Mildred Taylor

Book Club: A Literature-Based Curriculum uses The Gold Cadillac along with three other powerful stories by Mildred Taylor as the solid foundation for an author study.

Song of the Trees, Mississippi Bridge, and The Friendship have the same characters, allowing students to make intertextual links very easily. The Gold Cadillac has different characters but many of the same themes, fostering intertextual connections on a deeper level.

Buy the Novel Buy the Book Club Novel Guide

Below you will find a synopsis, further reading materials, discussion topics, and reviews that you might find useful during your teaching of The Gold Cadillac.

A Synopsis

In The Gold Cadillac, set in Ohio in 1950, ’lois and Wilma are thrilled when their father comes home one day with a brand-new gold Cadillac. Their mother refuses to ride in it until she hears her husband’s plan to visit his family in Mississippi. When the family leaves Ohio, the girls learn what it is to feel frightened because of the color of their skin. Their father is stopped by white police officers for no reason, taken into custody, and held for three hours. The family eventually arrives safely in Mississippi, but soon after their return to Ohio, ’lois’s father sells the Cadillac.

Further Reading and Links

The following sites can be used to support and enrich the Book Club unit for The Gold Cadillac by Mildred Taylor.

About the Author and the Book

  • The University of Mississippi — Ole Miss, as the University of Mississippi is commonly called, offers this biography of Mildred D. Taylor, who was born in the state. Besides information about the author, it provides a list of her books.
  • Penguin Random House — The publisher provides another biography of Mildred D. Taylor, along with a list of her books and an interview with the author.
  • Mississippi Writers & Musicians — Besides biographical information this site offers reviews to some of her books.
  • Backwards Hound Book Reviews — A middle school librarian provides this detailed summary and analysis of The Gold Cadillac..

Explore the Setting of the Novel

  • Ohio — The story starts out in Ohio. The Infoplease website provides an overview of the state's history as well as other interesting facts.
  • Mississippi — The Infoplease website compiles quick facts about Mississippi, including where the state's name came from.
  • Mississippi Maps — This site provides access to many maps of Mississippi, ranging from views of the entire state to city maps and maps of national parks.

Find Out More About the Historical Context of the Novel

  • African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship — This Library of Congress exhibit conducts the visitor on an informative tour through time beginning with slavery and ending in the civil rights era. Facts are balanced with reproductions of historical documents, photographs, and drawings, bringing significant events and important people in African American history to life.
  • The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross — This PBS series "chronicles the full sweep of African American history, from the origins of slavery on the African continent" through the Obama presidency. The site features many short video clips on specific topics.
  • Civil Rights Movement — The History site provides an overview of the civil rights movement. It offers articles about key events and people, timelines, videos, and pictures.
  • Separate Is Not Equal — The National Museum of American History exhibit on Brown v. Board of Education talks about segregation, the education system, and what the court case meant for African Americans.
  • The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow — Learn about Jim Crow laws and segregation and read personal accounts by individuals who lived through this era.

Big Theme Questions

What is racism? In what ways does racist behavior hurt everyone in a community?

Are there times when you should be silent about your beliefs, even if you feel you are right? Why or why not?

Are laws always fair? What makes a law good or bad? What can individuals do about bad laws?

What are the qualities of a true friend?

How can a strong family help its members overcome obstacles in life?

Outline of Lesson Plan | Discussion Topics | Writing Prompts

The following section can be used to get discussions started in your classroom. It is based on the Author Study: Mildred Taylor Lesson Plan within Book Club: A Literature-Based Curriculum. The Lesson Plan includes blackline masters for students that support the writing prompts. The writing prompts provided are meant as suggestions only. As students become more comfortable with the Book Club format, they will certainly have ideas and questions that go beyond the prompts. Consider giving students “free choice” as a log option. Book Club Reading Logs help students respond to literature and organize ideas as they participate in Book Club.

The Gold Cadillac
Literary Elements: Symbolism
Comprehension: Comparing and Contrasting

  • What do you learn about the setting of this story?
  • What is ’lois’s feeling about the Cadillac? How do her relatives and neighbors react?
  • Why does ’lois’s mother refuse to ride in the Cadillac? Do you think she is right?
  • Compare and contrast the two settings of the story.
  • Why does ’lois’s father sell the Cadillac? What does this reveal about his values?
  • Add details about this story to your story elements chart.

Song of the Trees
Literary Elements: Imagery and Dialect
Literary Elements: Characterization and Symbolism
Language Conventions: Qualities of a Good Book Club Discussion

  • Draw a picture of the forest.
  • What do you learn about the setting of the story from what Mama and Big Ma say and do?
  • How does Cassie feel about the trees in the forest? How do you know?
  • Make character maps of Mr. Andersen and Mama, or write a paragraph describing a character in detail.
  • What is Stacey doing in the story? Why? What would you do if you were in this situation?
  • What does Mr. Andersen mean when he says that Cassie’s father could have an accident?
  • Draw a timeline of the events that happen.
  • What do you think the title of the book means?
  • Interpret Papa’s statement: “And it don’t make me any difference if I die today or tomorrow. Just as long as I die right.”

Mississippi Bridge
Literary Elements: Point of View
Comprehension: Family Relationships
Response to Literature: Feelings About the Story
Response to Literature: Analyzing the Author’s Purpose

  • Write about the differing ways John Wallace treats his customers. How does he treat Rudine and her mama? How does he treat Miz Hattie McElroy and Grace-Anne?
  • What is revealed about Jeremy when he says that he and Josias are friends?
  • Describe the relationship between Jeremy and his father from the details given in these pages.
  • Why do you think Jeremy is so drawn to the Logans? Compare what you know of his family life with what you learn about the Logan family.
  • What do you learn about Stacey, Cassie, Christopher-John, and Little Man in this section of the book?
  • Describe your feelings about what happens to Josias and Jeremy in this part of the book.
  • What are some examples of foreshadowing in today’s reading?
  • Why do you think Mildred Taylor wrote this story? What is her message?
  • Explain the irony of the ending of the story.

The Friendship
Comprehension: Intertextual Connections
Response to Literature: Concept Web About Friendship
Comprehension: Understanding Characters’ Motives

  • What do you think is happening in this part of the story? Think about the other books you’ve read as you support your opinion.
  • Chart the conflicts you find in the story. How are they related to the setting of the story? What do you think might occur as a result of these conflicts?
  • Describe the characters of Dewberry and Thurston.
  • Write about friendship and how friendship is defined in the story.
  • Write about a time when you kept a promise to a friend even though it was hard to do. Or, write about a time when you didn’t. How did the situation make you feel?
  • When the Logans and Mr. Bee return to the store, why isn’t Jeremy eating his candy cane?
  • What thoughts might be going through Mr. Bee’s mind after he turns to look at Stacey?
  • Why doesn’t Mr. Wallace shoot again?

Compare and Contrast the Novels
Literary Elements: Theme

  • Identify recurring themes and other common elements in the four stories.
  • What did you enjoy about the characters, settings, and themes in Taylor’s books? Which elements made you uncomfortable?
  • Mildred Taylor’s books teach us about life. What is the best lesson about life that you have learned from her books?
  • Which character from the four stories do you admire the most? Why? Give evidence from the story to support your choice. How does Mildred Taylor shape this character?
  • Mildred Taylor’s books have themes of prejudice and racism. How have her books influenced your thinking about racism and prejudice?
  • Write about another issue in Taylor’s stories that you think is important or interesting.
  • Relate information about the author to her motives for writing.