The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis (Red Cedar Club 2013/2014)

The Watson's Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis is one of my favourite books of all time. My finest memories of talking books with kids have been around this book. I remember one grade 7 boy stopping in the middle of a literature circle conversation and exclaiming, "Wow, this is some discussion!" 

I first discovered his work when I read Bud Not Buddy, a very long time ago. I remember it being a fabulous book. This is a companion book to it. 

Since The Watson's Go to Birmingham
I haven't been truly excited by anything of Curtis', so I wasn't sure what to expect from The Mighty Miss Malone. My Red Cedar Club readers who have finished it have been enthusiastic so I decided to give it a try. 

I liked it. Deza, 
The Mighty Miss Malone is a charming character. She is a precocious girl caught up in the racism and poverty of the 1930's. Curtis has captured the time and its influence on Deza and other girls like her brilliantly. 

I cared about Deza, her family, and her brother Jimmie, a boy struggling academically but with a voice like an angel, a boy who takes his responsibility to his family very seriously. 

In spite of the depressing setting, her family is mostly optimistic, “We are a family on a journey to a place called Wonderful.” That is until Joe Lewis loses a match with his white opponent, Joe Schmeling, and her father is hurt in an accident. When he leaves their home in Gary, Indiana to go to Flint, Michigan in search of work, the rest of the family is left alone and worried. Eventually they are evicted from their home and end up riding the rails to Flint, where for a time they are homeless. They find work, search for him and wait for news. After Jimmie leaves to pursue a singing career, Deza and her mother are left to struggle on their own. 

This is fine historical writing - powerful in its ability to nurture understanding of the world as it was, and yet underscoring the hardships of living in poverty in the world as it is now. 

I think I might go back and reread Bud Not Buddy to see if it is a good as I recollect. 

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