Not getting any closer to the present, yet! Still stuck in the depression, guys. This one does take place in a city, though! Not a huge city, but a city (or two cities, really) nonetheless. None of that romantic rural farm life nonsense here.
Bud is an orphan who has knocked around a few foster homes with stays at the actual orphanage in between. It’s about as nice a life as it sounds. No one can really blame Bud when he runs off with his friend Bugs, but it turns out Bud isn’t really ready for a transient life on the rails like Bugs is, so he finally decides he’s going to go find the father he never knew. One of the only thing she has left from his mother are some flyers for a Jazz band in Grand Rapids, Michigan, so Bud sets out on foot from Flint to find his dad.
Bud, Not Buddy is a Newbery natural. The themes common to Newbery winners are all over this book: family, loss, “finding yourself,” independence, yadayada. The main character is well-developed. The other characters don’t last too long, so there’s not as much time for them, but it doesn’t feel like too much of a loss. Bud grows and changes a lot through the book, which is what’s important.
Christopher Paul Curtis has also seriously earned his spot among teacher’s favorite authors. His books are funny, so kids like them. His books are mostly historical fiction, so they’re great for social studies tie-ins. And his characters are mostly black! And we all need more black characters.
It’s also just a really nice book! It’s fun to read and Curtis’s style is clean and bright. Bud is a fun person to follow around. It would be tough to find someone who didn’t enjoy this book on some level.
Would kids like it? Totally. Bud is a kids’ kid. He plays pranks and is gutsy and smart. Every kid wants to be Bud’s friend.
Does it have “funny bits”? It does! I don’t think Bud is as funny as one of Curtis’s other books, The Watson’s Go to Birmingham – 1963, but it’s got plenty of humor. Bud is smack in the middle of a relatively funny run for Newbery winners.
Do I understand why it won? Totally! Like I said, not really a single unlikable thing about this book. This was a shoe-in. (Also, none of the Honor books from that year were particularly note-worthy in my book, either.)