Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 1999. 978-0385323062
Winner of the 2000 Coretta Scott King Book Award; Winner of the 2000 John Newbery Medal
Synopsis: Bud’s been with half a dozen temporary families since he’s been at the Home. Ever since his mother died four years ago, Bud has dreamed of finding his real family, the key to which he believes lies in the fliers which fill his suitcase of Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!! And once Bud decides to skip town, there’s no stopping him until he finds his father.
Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed Elijah of Buxton and I wanted to read more of Curtis’s work.
Why I finished it: The way Curtis writes takes historical fiction to a new level for me. This particular story, as detailed in the afterword, is inspired by Curtis’ own family history. His grandfathers were a band leader and a railroad porter, much like two of the characters in the book, adding another layer of realism to the story. Bud’s story may be fictional, but everything about the story feels so very real to the reader. We are angered and frustrated by the treatment Bud receives while in the foster homes. We are scared for him when he decides to take matters into his own hands and venture out on his own to find his father. We cheer for him when he makes friends with the members of the Dusky Devastators. And while what he finds is much more unexpected, through Bud’s narrative we discover another meaning behind family. The reader gets a little slice of American history, as with most historical fiction, but I find that so many books about the depression don’t often focus on African Americans. I found it refreshing that Curtis explores this period through different eyes, much like Hesse did in Out of the Dust. Though Curtis explains that most of the research for his book came from other books, he laments not listening to the stories of his grandparents, missing out on the wealth of knowledge and the perspective that his elders offered to the future generations. So much like Curtis, I would encourage you to sit down with your parents and grandparents, to listen to their stories, write them down, save them up either in writing or as audio, because those memories are precious. We can read all we want about history in a book, but I would argue it is these personal histories that have a larger impact than anything we learn in an academic setting.
Other related materials: The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis; Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis; The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis; One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia; P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia; Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse; A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck; A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck; Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan; Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor; Let the Circle Be Unbroken by Mildred D. Taylor