An incalculably valuable benefit of reading for young children is when they become acquainted with people and places they are not exposed to in their own small world. I believe this was one of the intrigues of stories to me as a child — meeting a little girl who lived on a mountain in a hut and slept on a straw bed in the loft, then a little girl whose family headed across the plains in a wagon and lived in a log cabin, then a family who was shipwrecked and made their home in a tree. These are endlessly imagination-expanding experiences. My world got bigger with every book.
Though I’m used to this mind-opening process after a lifetime of reading, I still think it is the hook that lures me into book after book, and children’s books especially still draw me in with this mysterious magic. I do not tire of making new acquaintances whose families look different, whose geography is foreign, or whose historical time is one I have never known firsthand.
My sister met Christopher Curtis at a writers conference and urged me to read his children’s books. As a result, I’m going to suggest that Bud, Not Buddy, is a book your children should not miss. The opening pages thrust the reader instantly into the terrors of a foster child’s experience in a not-so-fostering kind of family. But, not to worry, Bud is born thoroughly equipped to steer his own fate and makes a plan to escape. The rest of the story is his topsy-turvy adventure to find his way in the world, and back to a family he believes exists somewhere.The setting is Depression era, Jim Crow dominated, child care rule-free urban Midwest. Bud has one cardboard suitcase full of treasure and an imagination and sense of humor that do not quit no matter what dire circumstances he finds himself in.
I think every child’s ideas of security, faith, ingenuity, and loving your neighbor as yourself will be aroused in this charming, witty, heart-warming tale. Many of the characters in this believable account are based on those the author knew himself. Bud meets hoboes and homeless people, kindred spirits and kind strangers. The harsh reality of the bleak economy is warmed up by a host of jazz musicians. Bud’s independent spirit and certainty about his ability to solve problems, and – above all – his unshakable confidence in his mother’s love, not to mention his hilarious ten-year-old reasoning, make the book entertaining and unforgettable. It’s perfect for that eight to 18 age group. Like To Kill a Mockingbird, or Lassie, or Anne of Green Gables, this modern story of a heroic boy from a former generation deserves a place in the family of friends a child should get to know and keep for life.