Bud Not Buddy – by Christopher Paul Curtis (1998)

Bud Not Buddy

If you loved “The Watsons Go To Birmingham 1963”, you’re sure to enjoy this book as well. It’s the heart of the Great Depression in Flint, Michigan. The main character, 10-year-old Bud, is without a family. His mother died four years ago, and his father is unknown. With no family to take him in, Bud has been bounced from one foster care home to another. When he is locked in a hornet-infested tool shed overnight by his caretakers, he’s had enough.

Bud breaks out of the shed and starts walking from Flint to Grand Rapids. One of the few things left to him by his mother is a picture of a man from a jazz band; Bud believes this man is his father. He’s picked up along the road and given a ride by a man who’s heard of the band, and is willing to get him to his father.

There were two things I loved about this book: one, the historical base of the story, and two, that everyone needs to know where home and family is, no matter how long it takes to find it.

I listened to this book on audio, and it was very well done. At the end, the author talks about how much of the story was based on his own family and local history. He reminds us to ask our senior relatives to tell us the old family stories, before there is no one left to tell the stories.

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Breaking Stalin’s Nose – by Eugene Yelchin (2011)

Breaking Stalin's Nose

It’s the Cold War era, the days when Joseph Stalin was revered with god-like status. Communism is the rule of the land, and 10-year-old Sasha Zaichik is totally devoted to the cause. He and his father live in a large commune, and have nothing that is their own. Sasha is looking forward to his first day as a Young Pioneer, the day he will swear lifelong allegiance to Comrade Stalin. But the night before that is to happen, things start falling apart for Sasha. He begins to question everything he was taught.

Although the story is fictional, the author pulls the basic ideas from his childhood in Russia during the Cold War years. If you wonder why millions of people in the world would put up with Communism, this is a great book to read. It shows the constant surveillance of the government, the indoctrination of young children, the tremendous pressure to conform, and the domino effect when people start turning in others to make themselves guiltless. It reminded me of the Salem Witch Trials in our country years ago. People become so battered-down and discouraged that it becomes almost impossible to change the tyrannical system. Let’s hope and pray that we never have to personally experience such a government.

(This book is appropriate for ages 10 and up.)

Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry – by Mildred D. Taylor (1976)

Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry

This classic book is about a black family living in Mississippi during the years of the Great Depression. There’s Big Ma (the grandmother), David Paul and Mary (the parents) and their children – Stacey (12), Cassie (9), Christopher-John (7), and Little Man (6). Not far into the story, Uncle Hammer joins them, as well as an unemployed man named Mr. Morrison The Logan family owns a 200-acre farm, which was purchased after the Civil War from a northern carpetbagger. The white family that used to own the land wants it back, and will go to great lengths to get what they want.

The story is told by Cassie, the only daughter of David and Mary. Through her eyes you see the tightness of the family , as well as the harassment and prejudice that they experience from the white community. However, there are several whites who are portrayed in a positive light – Jeremy Simms, a classmate that does not share his family’s racial prejudices, and Mr. Jamison, a lawyer who supports the boycott against the local grocery store.

I greatly enjoyed reading this book. The conversations between Cassie and her three brothers were very authentic, and sounded like any other siblings’ squabbles. But my favorite part of the book had to be when her brother Stacey came up with a plan to get back at the bus driver who was always humiliating them. I also found Jeremy’s relationship with the Logan kids interesting. He was trying so hard to be their friend, but there just wasn’t any way to have a bi-racial friendship work for them.

You should be able to find this book in just about any public library or school media center. It is also available as an audiobook, with an excellent narrator. I listened to her smooth voice read the story perfectly as I drove to and from work. It was hard to turn off the CD player and get out of the car. When I reached the end of the story, I found myself wanting to hear more stories about the Logan family. And indeed, there are more stories! Stop at your local library and check out one the books written about the Logans:

Song Of The Trees (1975)
Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry (1976)
Let The Circle Be Unbroken (1981)
The Friendship (1987)
Mississippi Bridge (1987)
The Road To Memphis (1992)
The Well (1995)
The Land (2001)