Movie Review: The Hunger Games

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Directed by: Gary Ross

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Interest Range: 10-adult

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

Plot: Katniss has volunteered for the yearly government-enforced fight to the death, called the Hunger Games, to save her younger sister from certain death. She is now headed for a brief life of luxury in the Capital while training and world-building for the game are happening, before she is let loose with 23 other Tributes who will fight until only one remains. The Hunger Games are an establishment that the government has put in place to remind their people of the uprising the Districts once attempted. They are a way for the establishment to assert itself over its people every year, and make sure they acknowledge the power that is held over the people of the 12 Districts. But Katniss is special, she has a very clear reason to survive and is willing to do almost anything to get home- and the president has noticed her rebellious streak. Her life will never be the same.

Review: Since these books now appeal to such a wide audience, I was curious to see how they handled the movie. With such a violent and dark topic as a fight to the death among teenages treated as a garrish reality television show, this very easily could have been a R-rated movie. But they did a really good job of making it the least violent possible. Rarely do you see blood- and the most that is seen is from wounds like Katniss’s burn and Peeta’s cut. The most violent scenes are distorted, or sound is removed, so the viewer has an extra degree of separation from the action. Katniss and Peeta’s love story is not graphic, and at times isn’t even obvious (I watched this film with someone who had never read the books and often had to fill him in on the motives of each of the characters). I really do believe that children younger than 13 could watch this film and be ok. I think like with much dystopian writing, much of the more disturbing deeper message will go over kids’ heads due to lack of world experience. And if questions are asked, hopefully a parent will not shy away from having that conversation.

Themes: Dystopia, Inner Strength, Overcoming Challenges, Building New Relationships

Additional Info:

First in a film trilogy based on the books by Suzanne Collins. She was also involved in the writing for this film’s screenplay.

Main Characters:

Katniss Everdeen: A 16-year-old girl who is determined to survive the Hunger Games and get back to her family. She has very mixed up feelings regarding her hunting partner, Gale, and now Peeta, who has become her partner in the Hunger Games. Publicly, Peeta and Katniss are pretending to have feelings for each other, but by the end it’s unclear if everyone is still pretending- or if Peeta ever was.

Peeta Melark: The baker’s son, also from District 12. He is Katniss’s male counterpart in the Hunger Games, but obviously not as skilled at survival. He has been in love with Katniss since they were small children, and decides to make that public and play it up for popularity and the help and support of sponsors during the games.

Haymitch: District 12’s only past winner, he is given the task of mentoring all of their Tributes. Since they’ve never had another winner, one could see how this might be a very depressing task. But this year, he sees promise in Katniss and the possibility of a star-crossed lovers storyline. He manages to come out of his drunken haze to help win sponsors for the two Tributes and keep them alive.

Gale: Katniss’s hunting partner back home. Although they’ve never spoken of feelings for each other, it becomes clear that Katniss’s heart seems to lie with him. He’s promised to take care of her sister and mother while she is away.

Bibliographic Info:

Ross, G. (Director), Jacobson, N. (Producer), & Kilik, J. (Producer). (2012). The Hunger Games [Motion picture]. United States: Lionsgate, Color Force.

Tagline:

“The World Will Be Watching”

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Ramona Quimby, Age 8

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Author: Beverly Cleary

Age Range: 7-9

Interest Range: 7-9

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Plot: Ramona is starting the third grade, but that’s not the only new thing going on in her family. Her sister is now in Junior High, her dad is going back to school to become a teacher, and now her mother is working full-time to support them all. Things have definitely changed in the Quimby household. Ramona likes the third grade. She doesn’t let Yard Ape get the best of her, she gets to read great books during Sustained Silent Reading, and she really likes her teacher- or at least she did until she overheard Mrs. Whaley telling the secretary that Ramona was a show-off and a nuisance. What did Ramona do? Getting egg on her face at lunch wasn’t her fault, and neither was getting sick in class…but she did squeak her new shoes really loudly one day. Could that have been it? Things were already tense at home, and now Ramona’s feeling uncertain in school. Will she be able to play nice with her babysitter’s kids? Will her mother lose her job and her father have to drop out of school? And will she ever be able to make a book report interesting without being a show-off?

Review: This was a sweet little book. Ramona has a lot going on around her and definitely deals well with all of it. She has her uncertainties about what her parents are going through, and knows her responsibilities within the family even though she might not be happy about them. But overall she just wants to do well in school, not annoy her teacher, and be of help where she can at home. I was worried that the book might be a bit dated since it came out in the early 1980s, but the only thing that seemed out of place was the reference to a cigarette machine. That one small detail aside, this book could easily still be enjoyed by second and third graders today. I feel like it might even be more relevant today since many parents are going back to school and having to juggle that with family life. That idea could be confusing for a child, and reading a story about another family going through the same thing could alleviate some pressure.

Themes: Changes at Home, New School, Economic Hardship

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Ramona Quimby: Ramona is 8 and entering the 3rd grade. She is smart and loves to draw like her father, and she hates having to be nice to Willa Jean (the babysitter’s annoying granddaughter) but knows that that’s her job in the Quimby family. Ramona enjoys getting small presents from her dad and likes doing well in school.

Beezus (Beatrice) Quimby: Ramona’s older sister who is in the 8th grade and going to Junior High this year. Beezus and Ramona seem to have  a pretty good relationship, and we witness her 8th grade experiences through the bits and pieces that Ramona picks up: being invited to a party with girls and boys, going to sleepovers with friends.

Mr. Quimby: After tiring of his job as a supermarket checkout clerk, the Quimbys have saved enough money for Mr. Quimby to go back to school. He’s studying to become and art teacher.

Mrs. Quimby: The girls’ mother, who is now working full time to cover expenses while Mr. Quimby is taking classes and working a part-time job.

Bibliographic Info:

Cleary, B. (1981). Ramona Quimby, Age 8. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

Tagline:

The third-grade is full of exciting things to learn: cursive and book reports and fruit flies are keeping Ramona busy. But why does Ramona’s teacher all of a sudden think she’s a show-off and a nuisance? She’s just trying to do a good job and fit in at a new school!

The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World

Author: Mary Losure

Age Range: 10-14 (Kirkus)

Interest Range: 10-14

Genre: Non-fiction, History/Biography

Plot: Frances and Elsie lived in England during World War I. The two young girls would often play in the beck behind Elsie’s house, a wooded area with a stream and waterfall, where they would both often see “little green men” wandering about while they were playing. In an outburst, Frances told her mother about the fairies and from then on was teased by her family. One day Elsie had the idea to prove them wrong, and take a picture of the fairies. But her fairies were actually painted drawings, and the girls pulled off a photo convincing enough to eventually make them the center of much attention. Even the famous writer of Sherlock Holmes detective stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, wanted to believe that the girls’ photos were real. This is the story of two young girls who managed to fool a lot of people, and held on to their secret until they were grandmothers themselves.

Review: I had heard about the photos before reading this book, and was glad to finally hear the entire story. Elsie and Frances were two pretty remarkable young girls in their ability to keep a secret, but pretty normal in every other way. It was definitely an interesting look at how far people will push an idea when they really want it to be  reality. The girls’ creativity and ability to manipulate a relatively new technology really captured the hearts and minds of many people, some very prominent and known for their powers of deduction. I think that when viewed from this angle, their story is very relevant in today’s world of constantly changing technological advancements. In the age of photoshop and the Internet, people are constantly manipulating images to try and prove a point or idea. This story might be a fun way to show how that can sometimes actually work, emphasizing the importance of further research and checking sources before believing in fantastic stories.

Themes: Changes at Home, Lies, Tough Issues (war-time life, dropping out of school)

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Elsie: A school dropout with artistic abilities. It was Elsie who drew and painted the fairies, devised the plan, and took the photos, all at the age of 15. Those who believed her photos the most were harsh critics of her other artwork and said that there was no way she could have fabricated the fairies because she had no artistic talent. This criticism hurt her deeply, and she could not refute it unless she told the truth and destroyed the story.

Frances: A young girl of 9 when the story begins, Frances has come with her mother and father to England from South Africa to stay with her Aunt and Uncle and cousin while her father goes off to fight in the war. Frances is the first to see the little green men, and poses for Elsie’s photos to go along with the story and provide proof to stop the teasing from family members.

Aunt Polly and Uncle Arthur: Elsie’s parents and the owner of the house and land where the family was living at the time (Cottingly, Yorkshire, England). It was Uncle Arthur’s camera that Elsie used to take the first photos.

Bibliographic Info:

Losure, M. (2012). The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

Tagline:

How do you tell when to stop telling a lie?

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

 

Author:Brian Selznick

Age Range: 9-12

Interest Range: 9-12

Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: Hugo was destined to be a clockmaker. His father was one before him, and his fingers seem to just know exactly what to do with all of those tiny metal cogs and springs. But one day, a terrible accident happens and Hugo must go live with his uncle, the man who maintains all of the clocks at the train station. Over time, Hugo learns how to keep the clocks running himself, which is good because eventually his uncle disappears too. While living on his own and maintaining the clocks so no one will notice that his uncle is gone, Hugo begins to repair a fantastic old automaton that he believes will hold a secret message from his father. But after meeting Isabelle and uncovering the real message of the automaton, Hugo will embark on a journey he never even dreamed of. And just maybe he’ll manage to find his place in the world after all.

Review: Paris in the 1930s and a discussion of the early days of film- I had no idea that this book would hold so much! I knew it had won the Caldecott, and I’ve sold it to many readers, but before this I’ve never sat down to actually experience more of the story than flipping through the beautiful drawings. The blending of full blown picture book and text make this a magical experience in itself, often giving you the sensation of sitting back and being at the movies. I completely understand now why this was made into a film. It practically screams for it the entire time you’re reading it. Hugo is an interesting character. He hates stealing and tries not to do it any more than necessary, but often his story is launched forward when he gets caught for doing something he hates. His ability with clockwork gives him hope for a better future than running through the walls of the train station, but without guidance he has no idea how to get there. Isabelle is in a similar yet different situation: no parents and prone to stealing things and picking locks, but being raised by people who truly love her. Hugo and Isabelle are perfect for each other.

Themes: Coming of Age, Overcoming Challenges, Making new Friends

Additional Info:

Adaptations: This book was made into the movie Hugo by Martin Scorsese in 2011, his first in 3D, which won 5 Oscars

Main Characters:

Hugo Cabret: An orphan, who is secretly living in the Paris train station, maintaining the clocks like his uncle taught him in the hopes of not being caught and sent to the orphanage. In his spare time he is repairing the clockwork automaton that his father had found in a museum attic. Even though he knows otherwise, Hugo has convinced himself that if he can get it working he will receive a message from his father telling him what to do now that he is on his own.

Issabelle: A young girl that Hugo meets in the train station. Reluctantly, they become friends. But they are both prone to stealing and lying, so the relationship is rough. But Isabelle is very smart, always borrowing books from the train station bookshop to read and learn about everything she can and sneaking into movies for fun.

Papa George: The keeper of the toy shop in the train station where Hugo frequently steals clockwork toys to get parts for his automaton. One day George catches Hugo in the act and takes the notebook that contains everything he knows about his automaton. In desperation to get the notebook back, Hugo begins working for George. Also, Papa George is one of Isabelle’s godparents and caretakers.

Mama Jeanne: Isabelle’s godmother and George’s wife, Jeanne has been keeping secrets about her husband for years. She has locked away all the things that will remind George of his real past in an effort to protect him.

Bibliographic Info:

Selznick, B. (2007). The Invention of Hugo Cabret. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

Tagline:

Sometimes the machinery of the world just lines up, and everything falls into place. Even for an orphan who lives in a train station.

Zebra Forest

 

Author: Adina Rishe Gewirtz

Age Range: 9-12 (publisher’s info)

Interest Range: 9-12

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Plot: On the last day of sixth grade, Annie has to write an essay about her three wishes for the summer. She writes the essay, but doesn’t tell the truth about her wishes, which are all for things that she thinks are impossible: 1. Get tall, 2. Have an adventure, and 3. Meet her father. Annie doubts she’ll ever be tall since her Gran is so incredibly short, and Sunshine isn’t exactly a town with lots of adventures to be had. Her third wish is definitely impossible, since the only thing she knows about her father is that he died when she was young. But her summer is surprising, and adventure certainly comes to Sunshine with a prison break from the town next door and the arrival of a visitor who is here to stay. Annie, much to her surprise, is about to be a part of something intense that threatens to rip her family apart at the seams.

Review: I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. The story is well written, but the subject matter isn’t anything that I find particularly interesting. Annie’s father ends up not being dead, but instead a convicted felon who happens to run into the family by mistake. It just seems too staged. But Annie is a kid dealing with some very serious problems. Her Gran has good days and bad, and probably isn’t fit to raise two young children, but the social worker assigned to her family has promised to look the other way as long as Annie promises to tell her if anything very serious happens. Her younger brother, Rew, has anger management issues of a pretty serious variety. Although Annie has figured out how to handle him over the years, the reappearance of their father stretches his limits and eventually causes some serious division between brother and sister. And then there’s Annie, a very smart girl whose world is suddenly flipped upside down and who has to suddenly deal with being a hostage in her own house and figuring out if she can trust this man who was once her father but is now a convicted murderer. A very serious book that would only appeal to certain readers, but is definitely worth a read.

Themes: Coming of Age, Building New Relationships, Tough Issues, Illness

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Annie: A 6th grader who has been groomed to lie like a pro. She has been raised by her Gran, who homeschooled her until the social worker figured out what was really going on in the house. Annie is smart, but lacks much motivation for anything. What she wants more than anything is to know her family’s history, most importantly more about her dad.

Rew: Annie’s little brother who loves the book Treasure Island. The copy they have read repeatedly starts at Chapter 8, and Rew refuses any attempt to read the beginning of the story because he loves making up his own ideas for all of the characters’ beginnings. Rew is incredibly smart and always beats his sister at chess, unless she teases him enough to make him angry. Rew cannot think when he’s angry.

Gran: Annie and Rew’s grandmother. She moved them to the town of Sunshine after her husband died. She has been caring for and raising the children alone for the past 8 years, and is slowly slipping into depression. Gran is not always fit to be the caretaker for two young children, but she will never admit that to anyone. She is a world-class liar.

Andrew Snow: An escaped convict from the local prison who breaks into Gran’s house and takes the family hostage.

Bibliographic Info:

Gewirtz, A. R. (2013) Zebra Forest. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

Tagline:

When Annie wished for an adventure, she had no idea what she was getting herself into.

The Hunger Games

 

Author: Suzanne Collins

Age Range: 11-18 (Kirkus Reviews)

Interest Range: 10-Adult (based on popularity)

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy, Dystopian Fiction

Plot: Once, the Districts rebelled against the Capitol. As punishment, all 12 now have to compete in the yearly Hunger Games. Each District must send two Tributes, one boy and one girl, to compete to the death in the Capitol. The winner will be rich beyond their wildest dreams, but at what cost? To make things worse, the rest of the citizens are required to watch the televised coverage (think Reality TV-style) as their loved ones battle it out and eventually die. This year, Katniss Everdeen has done something unique: against better judgment, she has volunteered to participate in the games to save another citizen from being slaughtered. But will her hunting and survival skills be enough to keep her alive against 22 bloodthirsty strangers and one boy to whom she owes her own life?

Review: A face-paced dystopian novel, this book is simply addictive. I can completely understand why so many people have wanted to read it. Katniss is a strong character, with plenty of flaws, placed in a very precarious situation and the reader will sympathize with her immediately. The story itself is violent (young people being forced to fight to the death is going to be violent no matter how you describe it), and the feelings and emotions that Katniss experiences and describes are things that tweens may only have an inkling of, but I do not think that it is 100% inappropriate for tween readers. Tweens want to read up when the books are popular, and I genuinely think that this book would raise questions for an inquisitive 10-year-old, while flying over the heads of those who are not yet ready to “get it”. Those individuals probably will not enjoy the book as much as their peers anyway and wonder to themselves what all the fuss was about while on the outside they gush about how amazing it was. Would I choose this book for a middle grade reader? No. But would I try to prevent them from having access to it and reading it if they were interested? Also, no.

Themes: Dystopian society, Death, Socioeconomic Issues, Freedom, Relationships

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Katniss Everdeen: 16-years-old, a hunter who provides for her mother and sister on a daily basis. It is her (illegal) hunting skills that have kept the family alive and well since the death of her father. Katniss volunteers for the Hunger Games when her younger sister is picked at the Reaping.

Gabe: Katniss’s hunting partner, an 18-year-old boy. It is his last year for eligibility for the Reaping. Just before the ceremony, he suggests that he and Katniss could run away together into the wild and survive together with their combined skills.

Peeta Mellark: The Baker’s son, and the other tribute from District 12 for this year’s Hunger Games. He has secretly been in love with Katniss since they were small children. He and Katniss align as “Star-crossed lovers” to gain favor with sponsors and earn help in the competition- but for him it’s more than a ruse.

Bibliographic Info:

Collins, S. (2008). The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

Tagline:

Katniss is a survivor. She has to be.

Homesick

 

Author: Kate Klise

Age Range: 9-12 (Kirkus Reviews)

Interest Range: 9-12

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Plot: The year is 1983. Dennis Acres is a  tiny town in Missouri, and Benny Summer is a 12-year-old boy who spends most of his evenings listening to his parents fight. That is, until his mom walks out and moves back to New Orleans. Benny just can’t shake the deep, sad feeling that he can only name as “homesickness” as his father starts to make their home disappear. Benny’s dad owned an antique shop, until he started refusing to sell his antiques to anyone, claiming they were all “too valuable”. And now, all of the antiques reside in their house, with them, and with any junk that his father can find. A tower of pizza boxes continues to grow in the kitchen and when Benny tries to throw them away, his father freaks out and claims that they will someday be valuable too. Will Benny ever be able to get his dad to clean up? And will his mother ever come back so that Benny can find his home again?

Review: This book has a lot going on. In addition to being  a hoarder, Benny’s father also continually talks about how one day the entire world will be connected by a huge computer network. His predictions of what we know today as the Internet do sound strange in the mouth of someone from the early 1980s, and some of the things he believes will be possible really are quite crazy, but the reader gets to see how sometimes people with truly amazing ideas can be viewed as “crazy” by their closest friends and family. The reader also is seeing how mental illness was viewed in a time when many people still feared it and did not acknowledge it. In the end, Calvin is admitted to a hospital for other reasons and they determine what is really wrong with him. He is helped to realize his problem, given medication, and is put on track to live a normal life. While all of this is happening, Benny is also involved in the starting of the town radio station and experiences lots of regular 12-year-old boy feelings about school, and the girl who sits behind him in class, and the fact that his parents don’t get along.

Themes: Changes at Home, Economic Hardship, Mental Illness, Divorce

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Benny Summer: 12-year-old Benny is left alone to take care of his father for months while trying to navigate the sixth grade. He has a job at the local radio station, run by his father’s best friend, Myron, and avoids going to all of his piano lessons. He also has a crush on Stormy Walker.

Calvin Summer: Benny’s father, who suffers from a serotonin deficiency and hoards just about anything he can get his hands on. His “collecting” turns their home into an unlivable wreck, full of rats and mold, and his illness keeps him from seeing the danger and embarrassment that he is putting his son through.

Nola Rene Summer: Benny’s mother, who leaves when she becomes so frustrated at her husband’s inability to throw anything away that she just cannot take it anymore. She calls home infrequently to check on Benny and promises to come back for him at the end of the school year and bring him back to New Orleans with her. She either does not realize that her husband is sick, or does not care to.

Myron Kazie: Calvin’s best friend from when they were in high school and the owner of the local radio station. Myron acts as a kind of stand-in father for Benny, offering him a paying job at the radio station and constantly checking on him to make sure he’s ok. At a few points, Myron does attempt to intervene with Calvin, but Calvin’s intense level of self-defense keeps him at bay.

Mrs. Rosso: Benny’s sixth-grade teacher, who becomes another caretaker for Benny. She realizes what is going on at home and attempts to encourage Benny’s desire to clean up the house by allowing it to be his service project for school. When Calvin calls her at home in a fit of rage, she takes a more serious, yet hidden, role in helping Benny out- secretly teaching him to do laundry, and bringing him new clothes and personal items when he needs them.

Stormy Walker: The pretty girl who sits behind Benny in Mrs. Rosso’s class. Benny and Stormy eventually become friends when disaster strikes the entire town.

Bibliographic Info:

Klise, K. (2012). Homesick. New York: Macmillan.

Tagline:

His parents are splitting up, and even though he hasn’t left home Benny still can’t shake a feeling of homesickness when his mother leaves for good.

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Author: Stephan Pastis

Age Range: 9-12

Interest Range: 9-12

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Humor

Plot: Timmy Failure is a genius, a model of greatness, and a world-class detective. Too bad no one else sees it. He is forced to go through school, even though it is a waste of his precious time- time that could be spent working on his business, Total Failure, Inc., which is surely soon to go global. Timmy spends his free-time solving crimes for school friends with his sidekick, a polar bear named Total who does little more than eat chicken nuggets. But things aren’t all great: when his mother finds out about his failing grades she threatens to shut down the agency, and then there’s the Girl Who Must Not Be Named who runs a competing detective agency in town. Will Timmy be able to save his business? Will anyone ever see just how great he really is?

Review: I was tempted to write the words “think Wimpy Kid”, but this is better. The writing style is very much the same: young boy narrating his story, very sarcastic and very funny, with lots of hand-drawn illustrations to get his points across. But this book is so much more. Through Timmy’s thin veil of sarcasm and make-believe we get a glimpse of his real life: his single-parent mother is having a hard time at work, she’s begun dating again, they have to downsize to a small apartment, Timmy begins having to sleep on a pull-out couch in the living room, he’s failing in school and the teacher is threatening to hold him back, he doesn’t sit with the other kids at lunch or play with anyone at recess. Timmy’s got some real problems, and he chooses to deal with it by making up a detective agency and consistently telling himself that he’s the best thing around. I give the character props for not being down on himself, but the level of make-believe is almost disturbing- at least from an adult perspective.

Themes: Changes at Home, Middle School, Economic Hardship

Additional Info:

Fun Fact: Written by the author of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine. Definitely shares the same sense of humor.

Main Characters:

Timmy Failure: A middle school student who has a very active imagination that often gets in the way of real life. He runs a detective agency, Total Failure, Inc., with his polar bear named Total. Timmy genuinely believes that he is the greatest thing around and does not need to waste time on school or other people.

Total: Timmy’s pet polar bear, who rarely says anything but is involved in all of the Total Failure business.

Rollo: Timmy’s “Idiot Best Friend” who is actually one of the best students in their class. His perfect GPA comes from lots of studying and hard work, which Timmy just cannot understand.

Timmy’s mother: A constant presence, even though she rarely says anything in the narrative. When she learns about Timmy’s failing grades, she makes him shut down the detective agency and get rid of Total. She allows him to start cases again when they are specifically for his new teacher.

Mr. Jenkins: The new teacher for Timmy’s class after Old Man Crocus finally leaves for Florida. Mr. Jenkins has a good understanding of Timmy’s real problem with school and cleverly gets him to start engaging by acting as if each assignment is a new case for the best detective around.

Bibliographic Info:

Pastis, S. (2013). Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

Tagline:

With a name like Timmy Failure, you might think he’s a loser. But he isn’t, he’s the greatest detective in town- probably the world.

Bud, Not Buddy

Author: Christopher Paul Curtis

Age Range: 10-13

Interest Range: 10-13

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction

Plot: Bud is living in an orphanage during the Great Depression. After fighting his way out of a foster home, he runs away and decides to find the man that he is sure is his real father. He knows, because his mother left him hints, that his real father is a bass player in a jazz band in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Bud embarks on a mission that will take him through a cardboard city for homeless families, attempting to ride the rails, and eventually walking from Flint, Michigan, as far as he can stand. When he is picked up on the side of the road by Lefty Lewis, his luck begins to change. Lefty knows Bud’s father, and eventually takes him to him. But Herman E. Calloway is a cold, mean man, and much older than Bud expects. Is he really Bud’s father? Will Bud ever find a real home?

Review: Bud is a wonderful character. Street smart and funny, very relatable to young boys even today. He fights off bullies and vampires and his list of Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself are something that any child can relate to and appreciate. His drive and determination make him a force to be reckoned with, and it’s obvious from the beginning that he’ll do anything to find the man he believes to be his father, even walk that 120 miles in 24 hours. The book also paints a good introductory picture of the Great Depression and what it meant for a lot of families, as well as the race relations that existed during that time period. A good way to introduce readers to that time in history.

Themes: Coming of age, Loss, Bullying, Race, Homelessness

Additional Info:

Awards: Newbery award winner, 2000; winner of the Coretta Scott King Award for recognition of outstanding African-American authors

Main Characters:

Bud Caldwell: His name is Bud, not Buddy, because his mother warned him constantly in his youth not to ever let anyone call him anything other than Bud. Bud’s mother died when he was 6, and that was 4 years ago. He’s been living between an orphanage he calls The Home and various foster families that entire time, and after one-too-many beatings he escapes and is on the run to find the man he believes is his father. Along the way, Bud experiences a lot of luck as he encounters Hooverville, tries to jump a train, learns about unions, and tries to walk 120 miles to Grand Rapids. Bud’s determination is something to admire, and he takes everything that he is handed in stride ready for the next encounter.

Lefty Lewis: A kindly stranger who intercepts Bud on his long walk just outside of Owosso and eventually deposits him with Calloway and his band.

Herman E. Calloway: The man that Bud believes is his father, and who we eventually learn is actually his grandfather. Calloway is cold and difficult to deal with, but agrees to keep Bud around when pressured by his bandmates. He eventually learns the truth about his relationship with Bud, at the same time learning that his long-lost daughter is deceased.

Bibliographic Info:

Curtis, C. P. (1999). Bud, Not buddy. New York: Random House, Inc.

Tagline:

When one door closes, another opens. Join Bud as he sets out to find his father.