Bud, Not Buddy is a 1999 middle-grade children's novel by Christopher Paul Curtis set during the Great Depression.

The novel follows the story of the titular Bud, a ten year old orphan, as he makes his way across the state of Michigan to find the man he believes to be his long lost father. During the story, Bud runs away from an abusive foster home, tries (and fails) to hitch a ride on a train going west, stays at a Hooverville, runs into a kind man who is also a secret member of a labor force trying to bring unions into Flint, Michigan, and eventually finds the evasive musician Herman E. Calloway he believes to be his father.

The book has excellent detail regarding the trials of a young African-American boy during the Great Depression, and though it never dives too deeply into the matter of race, the discomforting aura of danger is clearly present when Bud has to travel alone across the state. Though Bud never finds his real father, he eventually finds family he hadn’t been expecting to find. The book is written from the first person, and Bud’s voice shines through via figurative language, realistic dialogue, and the use of vernacular. It is rich in historical references which make it an excellent jumping off point for impromptu history lessons, and it is humorous and sincere enough that the kids get invested in Bud’s story.

Bud, Not Buddy is one of the 6th grade novels used in the Engage New York curriculum guide that is used in middle school districts across the US.


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