Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

As some of you know, I am a bibliophile who has happily found a wonderful place called Shelfari, a site where book lovers can catalog their ridiculously huge book collections and discuss books with fellow members. There are several discussion forums including one particularly active group, Play Book Tag. Each month a different tag (genre) is selected and members post reviews of books that fit the tag. We also participate in challenges. Currently I'm reading for "Lay It On." For this challenge the aim is to read one book that fits several tags provided by teams. Below is one of my recent reviews for this challenge.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

5 stars

There are some really good, in-depth reviews by fellow members so I'll be brief about the summary and share more why I enjoyed the story. 10 year-old, Bud is orphaned at six. We're not sure how his mother died, but according to Bud it was sudden and without pain. Bud and his mother were very close. She read to him and was very attentive to her son. She did her best to prepare Bud for the world, but what she wouldn't share was who his father was. She did leave clues and after being mistreated by his last foster family, Bud takes off to find his dad.

What I like about Curtis' work is his ability to make history accessible through personal stories of very young characters. While the story was set in the Great Depression, I don't think Curtis' primary goal was to teach history. Rather, I think his aim was to illustrate the connection between history at-large and our personal histories. It's through relationships that history becomes relevant in Curtis' work.

I think Curtis is adept at creating authentic voice for his young characters. Bud speaks with some distinct grammar errors that a boy his age would make. His focus on his immediate needs and his belief that he can do something like find his father with little information and very limited resources speaks to the resiliency and naviete of youth. The author's sense of humor combined with the perceptions of the world as seen through the experience of the young render his stories exceedingly accessible and memorable.

My daughter and niece both read the book and neither were too articulate about the details, but they got the gist of what was going on, and I think they learned something. What's interesting to me are the differences in perception of the student and adult readers of the same book. They both told me enough that I wanted to read it, and they both didn't provide the kind of details that made me laugh as an adult reading a young boy's account of his adventure. I think adults perceive nuances students miss or overlook, but both audiences find something enjoyable in Curtis' work. This is my second novel by the author and I look forward to reading more by him.

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