Monday, February 24, 2014

A Review of 'Bud, Not Buddy' by Christopher Paul Curtis

"It's 1936 in Flint, Michigan.  Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud's got a few things going for him:

  1. He has his own suitcase full of special things.
  2. He's the author of Bud Caldwell's Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself.
  3. His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: flyers advertising Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!!
Bud's got an idea that those flyers will lead him to his father.  Once he decides to hit the road and find this mystery man, nothing can stop him-- not hunger, not fear, not vampires, not even Herman E. Calloway himself."

I first read this book sometime between fourth and seventh grade.  We read it as a group and it was the most miserable time ever.  I couldn't get into it at all and I just didn't care.  Now I've read it as an adult.  While it's still not my favorite book in the world, I see the value in it and I realize that it's not such a bad book.  If I teach middle school and I decide to teach some historical fiction (more than likely) this would be a good candidate.  I haven't read too many books about kids that take place during the Great Depression.

I thought Bud was a great character.  He was vulnerable, he was amusing, and he did change by the end of the book.  He even had future prospects, after receiving his first saxophone!  I also loved how grateful and polite he was throughout the book.  He was dealt such a crummy hand in life that it would be really easy to be a total brat and complain all the time.  But he didn't.  Maybe it was just the time period and he realized that he needed to cope like everyone else who was struggling during this time.

I had a problem with the rest of the characters though.  No one stuck around long enough for me to really and truly care about them.  There was no mention of them at the end.  Bugs was a charming fellow and he's whisked off to Chicago when he jumps a train.  Deza was really cute, but the police rounded up her Hooverville family and we never hear from her again.  We never hear from Lefty and his family again (I liked him the most).  We don't even really get to know a lot about who his mother was or even a lot about Herman E. Calloway (although, he's an actual historical figure, so we can do research on him, unlike most of the other characters).  Had these characters been a stronger presence throughout the book, whether they were physically with Bud or not, I think the book would have been much richer.  But even though we only get glimpses of these characters, I feel like it helped lay a groundwork for who was living during this time and how they lived.  They painted a picture of what it was like.

This is definitely a book for younger readers, but if you're planning to use this book to expose your student/child to what the Great Depression was like, this is a book start and you won't be bored.

I give 'Bud, Not Buddy':
Thanks for Reading!


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