Bud, Not Buddy
Curtis, Christopher Paul. 1999. Bud, Not Buddy. New York: Delacorte Press.
It is easy to see why Christopher Paul Curtis has won so many awards. His gift of finding just the right voice for his characters has put him head and shoulders above the rest. The title character, Bud, in his Newbery Award winning Bud, Not Buddy, is an eternally optimistic, independent orphan who never lets life get in his way. He makes things happen--which is why he runs away from his abusive foster family in the middle of the night, determined to find his ‘father’, the great jazz musician Herman E. Calloway. All he has left from his deceased mother are a few music flyers, some rocks, a blanket and his memories that he carries in an old battered suitcase. When he gets the idea to find his family he lets nothing deter him from his quest. Set in the era of the Great Depression, Bud’s personality is the polar opposite from the mood and tone of the time. His sunny disposition and positive spirit bring a ray of hope that will carry the reader through the darker times of the period and keep looking toward a better horizon. Curtis’s ability to draw realistic, multi-faceted and dynamic characters, full of quirks and tics, with strong voices and their own charm comes from the wealth of characters in his own family on which to build them. In the afterword of the book, we find that two of the major characters in the story were loosely based on Curtis’ own grandfathers. The pictures and author’s notes add a depth and realism to the story that allows the reader to feel as if they really knew these people and their problems. Curtis’ easygoing style and humorous, tongue-in-cheek dialog give this read all it needs to be a favorite for years to come. What is the mystery that surrounds the crotchety Herman E. Calloway? Why does he so dislike the effervescent Bud, and may even fear him? Well, you just have to read to find out.