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Bud, Not Buddy is the story of a ten-year-old African-American boy living in Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression.  With the death of his mother, Bud is left to face life in overcrowded orphanages and an abusive foster home.  Being placed in the shed for the night, by the Amos’, was enough to send Bud looking for the man he thought to be his father. 


Though his mother never told him who his father was, she left him a clue: a blue flyer that she brought home before her death.  The flyer was about the Herman E. Calloway and his band the Dusky Devastators of the Depression.  According to his mother’s reaction to the flyer, Bud figured that it had to do something about his father.


In searching for his father, Bud has to face many hardships that people faced in the Depression: long food lines and disgruntle police officers.  Along the way Bud gets a ride from Lefty Lewis, a labor organizer for African-American railroad workers.  Mr. Lewis takes Bud from Flint to Grand Rapids, Michigan where he thinks he might be able to find Herman E. Calloway.


Bud finally catches up to the band and Miss Thomas, the jazz singer for the band, takes him under her wing.  What Bud finds is his grandfather, not his father.




Christopher Paul Curtis’s, Bud, Not Buddy, is a delightful and heart-warming story of a 10-year-old trying to deal with the loss of his mother and eventually find his father on his own, from a clue left behind by his mother.    Curtis’s style of writing for his book is wonderful.  Giving Bud, a sense of humor and wit with his “Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things to Have a Funnier Life and Make a Better Liar Out of Yourself.”  Rule number 29, “When you wake up and don’t know for sure where you’re at and there’s a bunch of people standing around you, it’s best to pretend you’re still asleep until you can figure out what’s going on and what you should do, and rule number 83, “if a adult tells you not to worry, and you weren’t worried before, you better hurry up and start ’cause you’re already running late.”


Readers get a first hand account of what life was like for Bud. Bud’s character is brought to life is just a very eye-opening and compelling way.  You feel like your right there along side of him in the shed filled with hornets, and mopping the floor for Mr. Calloway who rejected him for awhile.  Curtis does a wonderful job of working with the themes of love and death.  Bud, who loves his mother very much, faces her death only to set out in search for his father. Your heart will break long with Bud when he over hears Miss Thomas telling Calloway, “You have no idea how bad those orphanages can be, it’s no place to be raised.  I can’t believe you, you’ll take care of any stray dog wandering through this neighborhood, but when it comes to a child all of a sudden you have no sympathy.”




Curtis has included an ‘Afterward’ page that gives background information.  Things that “Bud encounters are based on events that occurred in the 1930s, during a time known as the Great Depression.”  People that Bud met during the story, Lefty Lewis and Herman E. Calloway, were based on Curtis’s grandfathers. Curtis’s parental grandfather was Herman E. Curtis and was a bandleader for the Dusky Devastators of the Depression.



Curtis takes us on a humorous journey filled with ups and downs, turns and twists, which end with a reunion.  A must read for any elementary student in grades 4 and up. It is easy to see why Curtis’ book Bud, not Buddy won the Newbery Medal Award for 2000.



Curtis, Christopher Paul.  1999.  Bud, Not Buddy.  New York: Delacorte

       Press. ISBN: 0385323069.


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