Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Plot in Five Sentences Or Less:  Bud Calloway is an orphan who never knew his father and whose mother died a few years ago.   Bud springs himself from his next foster home and manages to hide out for a few nights outside the local public library.  But the road beckons, and soon Bud is on his way to Grand Rapids to find his father.  Along the way, he meets a lot of quirky characters who help him along in his quest.  He eventually encounters a grumpy jazz musician who doesn’t fit his model of fatherhood.


My Take:  
This is the first book that I had read by Curtis and I was not disappointed.   No landscape writer, Curtis’s strength lies in his ear for creating a character through the sound of their words.  I can certainly understand why this book won the 2000 Newberry Medal Award.  Bud is an artfully sketched out character who is as adept at survival as he is with the English language.  I appreciated Bud’s rituals to stay out of trouble with adults  and his humorous “Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself.”   I recommend this book to any 5th grader and above who can appreciate Bud’s interesting view on life.

One Interesting Note About the Author:   According to his website, after graduating high school in Flint, Michigan, Curtis worked in Fisher’s Body Plant #1, hanging 80 lbs. car doors onto Buick’s.

Canary in the Coal Mine by Madelyn Rosenberg

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The Plot In 5 Sentences or Less:  Bitty is a canary that lives in the town of Coalbank Hollow, West Virginia in 1931.  Caged with other canaries in a boy’s room, the birds are daily taken to the mines and used as methane and carbon monoxide detectors.  The mines are dangerous for man and bird and alike, so Bitty concocts a plan to escape.  After springing himself, he makes his way to Charleston where he plans to somehow petition the state government to make mining safer.  Along the way he meets lots of new friends,  makes some enemies, and learns that changing the status quo is not easy.

My Take:  This is a solid anthropomorphic book in the spirit of E.B. White  or Dick King-Smith.  I learned a lot about mining and also about birds (before reading this I couldn’t tell a grackle from a crow).  Some readers may quibble about a bird somehow knowing to make their way to Charleston to legislate for mining conditions, but, hey, its a children’s book.  Ages 9+

One Interesting Note about the Author:   Madelyn’s first children’s “book” was called “Mommy’s Flying Birthday Cake.”  You may view a copy of it here.