Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bud not Buddy

Bud, Not Buddy
by Christopher Paul Curtis
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 1999
2014 Bluestem Nominee
Audience:  Elementary School
ISBN:  9780385323062
Publication Date:  September 7, 1999

In this story of the Great Depression, Bud Caldwell escapes an abusive foster home and sets out to find his father, Herman E. Calloway of musical fame.  Bud is not as hopeless as some children.  He had a loving mother until she died when he was six, then he lived in an orphanage and various foster homes until he just can't take it anymore and runs away in the night.  He meets up with a friend and they plan to ride the rails out west, but when Bud sees how the dangerous this can be, he sets out for Grand Rapids, Michigan to find his dad, or who he thinks is his dad.  Once there, Bud surprises everyone and learns more about this family, and mother, than he imagined possible.

It wasn't until the very end that I started enjoying Bud's story.  The whole first part of the book just felt like a history lesson about the Great Depression, with Hooverville, union talk, soup kitchen lines, orphanages.  It wasn't cohesive to me and felt like history for history's sake.  

Then, Bud meets up with Lefty Lewis and the story started to take off.  Once Bud is on his way to Grand Rapids, the story has a goal.  It's not about preaching history anymore, it's about Bud looking for his father and getting a little help along the way.

Bud is an interesting character.  He's wise beyond his years and has quite the set of rules to avoid disaster and have more fun.  Several books with a more modern setting use this same device, so that could be an excellent tie-in with other books.  Even though Bud is only ten and acts older, I don't think that was such an odd thing at the time.  Kids grew up quicker in the Depression out of necessity.  He did get some lucky breaks, however and had enough bravery for ten men.  

The members of the jazz band are all quite the characters too.  It's great to see Bud get this large family when he was isolated even with his mother.  Some of the quips and one-liners between this group are priceless and kids will love them.

To me, Bud, Not Buddy is a better Caudill than Bluestem, and in fact it was a Caudill in 2002.  This just further shows that the Bluestem is growing into it's niche.  I think that 3rd through 5th graders would enjoy this book, but some more reluctant readers might not set their sights on it.  It's a great book, but I don't really see it as a contender because it is a little to advanced for this age group.

But, for a great book that blends history, comedy, life lessons, and music, you just can't go wrong with Bud, Not Buddy.

Happy Reading!

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