Book Review: Bud, Not Buddy

Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bud, Not Buddy. New York, NY: Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 1999.

It’s 1936 in Flint, Michigan. Times may be hard, and 10-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud’s got a few things going for him:

1. He has his own suitcase full of special things.
2. He’s the author of Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself.
3. His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: flyers advertising Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!!

Bud’s got an idea that those posters will lead him to his father. Once he decides to hit the road and find this mystery man, nothing can stop him — not hunger, not fear, not vampires, not even Herman E. Calloway himself.

Can I tell you how much I love this book? I LOVE THIS BOOK! It’s one of my favorite Newbery winners (winner in 2000), and I highly recommend listening to the audiobook – it’s read by actor James Avery, known to many as Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and he is absolutely amazing. I first listened to this one when I was in library school, in a Children’s Literature class, but I’m not sure if I finished or just listened to most of it. So I decided it was worth a reread.

The title of the book comes from Bud’s momma, who died when Bud was six years old. She says that his name is Bud, not Buddy, and that she knew what she was doing, and if she wanted to name him Buddy, she would have. So when anyone asks his name, he tells them, “My name is Bud, not Buddy.” And then they tease him and call him Bud, Not Buddy. It’s really cute that he says it every time, because he’s a kid and kids do things like that.

Bud’s Rules and Things For Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself are a theme throughout the novel. Basically, it’s things that Bud has figured out being on his own, in and out of foster homes since his mother died. Some of them are poignant, like that when an adult says someone is “gone” it usually means “dead.” Others are funny, like when you wake up and don’t know where you are, it’s best to keep your eyes closed and pretend to sleep until you can figure out what’s going on.

The story takes place in the United States during the Depression, and Bud (and vicariously, the reader) experiences and learns about a lot of things of the time, like Hoovervilles and soup kitchens and Jazz music. That’s another reason the audiobook is awesome – there is often saxophone music underscoring the narration, and more instruments join in sometimes too. It makes me want a CD of the Dusky Devastators of the Depression, but I’ll settle for my Jazz station in Pandora. 🙂

This is a great book for boys, which are sometimes hard to find books for because they don’t want to read about girls. And the character names are great! Deza Malone, Lefty Lewis, Steady Eddie… the names go along with the Jazzy tone of the novel, especially those in the band. Reading it is awesome, but listening to it is even better.

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  1. Pingback: Book Review: A Year Down Yonder | Judging the Book

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