Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (1999), 243 pages
Bud, Not Buddy won the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award in 2000.
I read this — I haven’t picked up much children’s literature (or YA, for that matter) since I outgrew the children’s section when I was a kid — as part of Nymeth’s Try Something New Mini-Challenge. I was paired with Sarah of Behold, the thing that reads a lot for the challenge, and we settled on expanding our knowledge of Newbery winners since Dewey was participating in the Newbery Project.
Sarah suggested a few she’d read and enjoyed for me to choose a selection from, and I offered her a few choices as well.
In 1936, during the Great Depression, 10-year-old Bud Caldwell lives in the orphanage in Flint, Michigan that has been his home since the death of his mother, when he was 6. He doesn’t exactly enjoy life at the orphanage, but it beats the abusive foster home alternatives he’s given. Presented with the opportunity, Bud decides to go in search of his father. His only clue? A couple of fliers he found in his mom’s dresser. So he sets off for Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I really enjoyed this book. It fits with my recent infatuation with Depression literature, as well.
There are lots of reasons to love this book. Bud’s speech is endearing. What he’s been through is heart-rending. His interspersed Rules and Things to Have a Funner Life and Make a Better Liar of Yourself are funny and usually too true to life. It’s a very quick read. Oh, and the kid likes hanging out in libraries! Curtis modeled characters in Bud, Not Buddy on his grandfathers.
I can’t think of a good reason why anyone would not read this book.
I’m quite interested to read Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963. His Elijah of Buxton was named a Newbery Honor book in 2008.
1 More Chapter
Sarah read Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson:
What shocked me in Jacob Have I Loved was how it was more of literature than a child’s story. Kids want to read about kittens and puppies and horses and firemen. Kids want to read about other kids like them, like Amber Brown or Junie B. Jones. It is not surprising that all of the books I read off of the Newbery list I read for school because of this fact. I think Jacob Have I Loved was particularly guilty of not being very relatable to children.
If I were a fifth grader, I would have hated the book. There wasn’t much action. The protagonist lives on an island village where they depend on crabs and oysters to make a living. The high school has two teachers. You have to ride the ferry to go grocery shopping. One thing is relatable, though, the struggle between Louise and her twin sister Caroline. Many times, their relationship is compared to Jacob and Esau’s relationship in the Bible. Caroline is the precious, sickly, talented child that wins the affections of everyone around her, and Louise is left to herself. Caroline gets to go to boarding school and Louise stays on the island.
What many would write off as childish jealousy goes deeper than that. Louise is greatly affected by her parents’ treatment of Caroline. While Caroline is off making a life for herself, Louise chooses to stay on the island and help her father. Louise makes herself think they are making her stay so she can make herself feel miserable.
The writing has a simplicity that makes it known that the book was written for children. Often, writers like Ernest Hemingway and Ayn Rand are said to have a simple but beautiful writing style. I fail to see it in the great American authors, but you can definitely notice the beauty of the simplistic language. It seems that the writing is a bit cold and grey, as you would imagine the setting of the island to be.
Usually I am disappointed of the endings of books. I find many of them subpar. They usually don’t offer enough closure and sometimes they offer too much. The ending of Jacob Have I Loved is touching, offers plenty of closure, and makes you wonder what happens next. But then your eyes fall on the back cover.
WordLily here again: My review of Jacob Have I Loved.
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