Wednesday, September 8, 2010

SLIS 5420 - Module 3 - Bud, Not Buddy

Module 3 - Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bud, Not Buddy. Delacorte Press, 1999. ISBN: 0-385-32306-9

This excellent book is a two-time award winner. It received the 2000 Newbery Medal and the 2000 Coretta Scott King Award. This story is about a young boy who is all alone in the world. His mother has died, and he has been living in the Home (an orphanage) since he was 6 years old. Bud thinks he knows who his father is and tries to find him in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Along the way, he meets different people, has adventures and lets his rules for living guide him. Everywhere he goes, he takes his suitcase which contains not only secrets of the past, but also hold clues for his future. Set in the Depression era, the story is upbeat rather than sad. Bud's cheerful attitude and his determination keep him going through all of his adventures.

What I think
I enjoyed this book immensely! I don't normally enjoy books with a historical setting, but the adventures that Bud goes through are paramount to the historical nature of the story. I loved Bud's sense of humor with his hilarious "Bud Caldwell's Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself" that are found appropriately throughout the text. Just as funny are his inadvertent episodes with "vampires" and "ghosts" through the story. Another funny episode involves a librarian trying to give Bud something "special" and Bud says, "I didn't get too excited 'cause I know the kind of things librarians think are special" (p. 89). These scenes make the heartbreaking nature of what Bud has to go through as an African American orphan boy living through the Depression a lighter story than might have otherwise been told.

Overall, I think the use of humor in this story is very important. It's a story that a librarian can easily sell to kids to read based on the fact that its funny and it's a story of a runaway boy's exciting adventures. Kids won't even realize they are learning something. The pictures in the after word really might spark their imaginations, too, because some of the characters were based on the author's family. I would never try to "sell" this book as "Historical Fiction." It's more than a story about a time in history. It's very much a story about a boy finding himself, his family and the adventures he encounters.

Outside Reviews
"Curtis is so perfect for classroom use that I'm going to devote the whole column to it this month. Add this book to your list of must-reads and your list for multiple copies and read-alouds if you work with kids from fourth grade up. As with the author's The Watsons Go to Birmingham (Bantam, 1997, ISBN 0 440-41412-1), we go from laughter to tears in the blink of an eye.
Quite a character. Once you meet Bud, you'll never forget him. His self-constructed set of rules for how to "Have a Funner Life and Make a Better Liar Out of Yourself" may remind some readers of Mouse's emergency rules in Betsy Byars' The Eighteenth Emergency (Viking, 1996, ISBN 0140-31451-2). Bud belongs with Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee (Little Brown, 1990, ISBN 0-316-80906-3) and other authors' characters who enlighten the human experience and make us wish we could step into the action to help them find good homes."
Hurst, C. (2000). Meet Bud, Not Buddy. Teaching Pre K-8, 30(7), 72. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

"In a story that's as far-fetched as it is irresistible, and as classic as it is immediate, a deserving orphan boy finds a home, It's the Depression, and.Bud (not Buddy) is ten and has been on his own since his mother died when he was six. In and out of the Flint, Michigan, children's home and foster homes ever since, Bud decides to take off and find his father after a particularly terrible, though riotously recounted, evening with his latest foster family. Helped only by a few clues his mother left him, and his own mental list of "Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself," Bud makes his way to a food pantry, then to the library to do some research (only to find that his beloved librarian, one Charlemae Rollins, has moved to Chicago), and finally to the local Hoover ville where be just misses hopping a freight to Chicago. Undaunted, he decides to walk to Grand Rapids, where he hopes his father, the bandleader Herman E. Calloway, will be. Lefty Lewis, the kindly union man who gives Bud a lift, is not the first benevolent presence to help the boy on his way, nor will he be the last. There's a bit of the Little Rascals in Bud, and a bit more of Shirley Temple as his kind heart and ingenuous ways bring tears to the eyes of the crustiest of old men — not his father, but close enough. But Bud's fresh voice keeps the sentimentality to a reasonable simmer, and the story zips along in step with Bud's own panache."
Sutton, R. (1999). Bud, Not Buddy. Horn Book Magazine, 75(6), 737. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

Using this book in the library
In the after word, Curtis tells the readers about the parts of the story that were based on real-life events. Characters like Lefty Lewis and Herman E. Calloway were based on his grandfathers. Using this book as a starting point, children in a book club or other such group could explore the past. They could be encouraged to find out what their own families have accomplished or what parts of history they remember. They could also search for other events that are mentioned in the book, such as the union organizations and learn more about these aspects of history.

More information!
In one of the earlier scenes in the book, Bud is waiting in line outside the mission with his "pretend family." As they round the corner, everyone sees a sign and starts laughing. The billboard sign shows a rich white family driving in a car with the words: "THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE AMERICA TODAY!" (p. 49-50). This scene was inspired by an actual photograph by Margaret Bourke-White. Here is a link to the picture and some more information about the scene.

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