I’m usually not too picky about where books end up on the Top 100 list as long as the good ones get on there somewhere. Sometimes I’m a bit perplexed as to why some are ranked so high but Bud, Not Buddy (1999) is the first book where I really, truly wish it was higher than its given place at number 60. Christopher Paul Curtis has done such a wonderful job of weaving together a compelling narrative based around local and national history that I feel this book deserves all the recognition it can get. I would suggest making this book required reading for kids but that tends to ruin a book quicker than anything, right?
What it’s about: Bud (not Buddy) Caldwell is living in an orphanage in Flint, Michigan in 1936, toward the end of the Great Depression. When a foster situation goes bad, he runs away and sets off to Grand Rapids in the hopes of finding the father that he has never met. Weaving in historical details like Hoovervilles, jazz and labor unions, we see Bud find family in the most unexpected places and get a chance to explore an oft-neglected time in American history.
Age level: Grade 4-6
Best thing: Everything about this book was engaging and really drew one in to explore history and to root for Bud. I especially enjoyed the scenes with the jazz musicians. They were a fun group of people!
Worst thing: I honestly can’t think of anything. Every part of this story was meaningful and essential in building up the time and characters.
I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by James Avery, and it was absolutely fantastic. From the details about Hoovervilles and westbound trains, to the descriptions of Depression era kindnesses and sacrifices, Curtis gives insight into the wide variety of experiences of African-Americans in Michigan at this unstable time. Personally, I have read very few books about the Depression because I was afraid of them being bleak and, well, depressing, but this story was uplifting and, while having moments of sadness, the overall tone was positive and hopeful. So far, I’m two for two on enjoying Christopher Paul Curtis’ fantastic books so I’ll definitely keep reading his works outside of this project.
The next four books I’ve chosen are all fantasies so if you’re looking for something to read for the Once Upon a Time VIII Challenge, join me on any of them!