Book review

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (1999)

This is one of those books that is both funny and sad at the same time.

Bud is growing up in hard times. America during the Depression, in the 1930's, is a country struggling with poverty and hunger. Unemployment is high, and the few jobs that are available don't go to black people.

Bud lives in the orphanage since his mother died. It isn't a treat or relief when he is sent to live with a foster family, but anyway, it doesn't last long:

... I had to get out of this neighbourhood as quick as I could.
I knew a nervous-looking, stung-up kid with blood dripping from a fish-head bite and carrying a old raggedy suitcase didn't look like he belonged around here.

Too right. The trouble is, Bud doesn't really belong anywhere. Bud doesn't know anything about his father, except for the clue which his mother left him. He has a flyer for a jazz band: Herman E Calloway and the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!

It's funny how ideas are, in a lot of ways they're just like seeds. Both of them start real, real small and then ... woop, zoop, sloop ... before you could say Jack Robinson they've gone and grown a lot bigger than you ever thought they could.

Bud decides to look for Herman E Calloway.

But America in the Depression is full of down-and-outs all trying to get somewhere in search of work and a full belly. It's dangerous for a young black boy to be out on the road alone. And if he does mistake the odd good Samaritan along the way for a human vampire - well, that's because he's still only ten years old.

Want to know if Bud finds Herman E Calloway and the Dusky Devastators of the Depression? You'll have to read the book.

I loved this story. Highly recommended.

What can I read next?

If you are interested in stories set in the American past, you might like to read this one by Geraldine McCaughrean about pioneers in the wild west:

If you enjoy reading about Bud's search for a real home, I think you might like to look at this book by Michelle Magorian set in England during the Second World War:

And there is this classic story about a boy who escapes from a concentration camp and crosses Europe in his search for his mother. It is by Anne Holm:

Or you might like to look at this one by Beverley Naidoo for a contemporary story about homeless children:

You could also have a look at this story by Suzanne Fisher Staples about racism in America:

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