Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Mighty Miss Malone

A new Christopher Paul Curtis book is always something to get excited about. They are guaranteed kid pleasers as well as being excellent historical fiction. I used both Bud, Not Buddy and The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 in my classroom. I was thrilled when The Mighty Miss Malone came out in January to have a new Curtis book to add to the others.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
"We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful" is the motto of Deza Malone's family. Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie's beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father. The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.

Deza truly is a mighty character. She is one of those characters who you know and love from the get go. The kind you want to see have all sorts of successes even if they are occasionally annoying. Deza is bold and a bit full of herself. She speaks her mind, has plenty of opinions to speak about, knows she is quite smart, is disdainful of those things she doesn't understand (like excitement over boxing), and people who know her tend to think she is going to be someone important indeed. And you can't help but love her. She is far more bold and gregarious than Curtis's other heroes and her sparkling personality causes her to burst off the page. Given all that, everyone's expectations for her and Deza's expectations for herself, I really liked how Curtis reversed the family's fortunes in the end. It made Deza's journey more realistic and better for her character development.
This is also a superb depiction of life during the Depression for a girl that doesn't have anything to do with dust or overalls. For this Curtis has my undying  love and devotion. It works great as a companion to Bud, Not Buddy for this reason, and, of course, Deza made an appearance in Buddy's story just as he makes one in hers, but you absolutely do not need to read them together. Each is its own story. 

I predict that kids will love Deza's story just as much as they have all of Curtis's other books and look forward to introducing her to the ones I come in contact with. 

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