Bud, Not Buddy

‘…I don’t know when it happened, but it seems like my eyes don’t cry no more.’ Ten-year-old ‘Bud not Buddy’ has lived in a children’s home for four years since his mother died. Precious mementos of their life together are kept in his suitcase, which he takes everywhere with him. Sent to a foster home for the third time, the harsh treatment he receives prompts him to run away. With little to go on but his keepsakes and a gut feeling, he sets out in search of the man he believes to be his father. After a failed first attempt to leave town with an old pal from the children’s home, he finds himself alone and on foot, travelling through the night. Help is at hand, however, and he makes it to his destination, where he finds the man he is looking for. Things don’t turn out quite as he expected. Carefully crafted narrative, full of vividly descriptive prose gives an authentic and atmospheric feel to this story, set in 1930s America. The factual background of the depression and the social conditions of that time, which inform the narrative, are outlined in the afterword. Heartwarming and funny, moving and thought-provoking, this fast-paced and absorbing adventure has many layers. Specifically located in place and time it has a universal application. It speaks of children’s resilience in the face of difficult circumstances and adult shortcomings. It deals with deep emotions and tough issues in a subtle and unsentimental way. Much of the strength of this book lies in well-defined characterisation, which supports the suspension of disbelief. Bud is particularly appealing, addressing the reader in the first person and recruiting him immediately into the action. Warm, resilient and credible, he makes the reader care. Respectful of his young reader, Curtis maintains hope and provides a satisfying resolution, while still leaving room for speculation. A deserving winner of the Newbery medal, this is a memorable book for readers of 11 and quite a bit older.