Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

This story is about Bud Caldwell, a twelve-year old orphan who runs away from his most recent foster family.  Bud travels across his home state of Michigan during the Great Depression in a search for his long-lost family.   He meets a musician who he thinks might be his father, and falls in with the man’s traveling band.  Out on the road, Bud has time to explore his family tree, and discover how little he actually knows about his roots.

This book has not only has an amazing plot, but it also has one of the most interesting settings.  Our lives today are so comfortable that it’s very easy to forget about how things were just a few generations ago.  Mr. Curtis does an excellent job of describing life during the Depression, especially the “Hoovervilles” and the conflicts between labor organizers and security men.  I can’t imagine a life where I didn’t know where I was heading next, or where my next meal was coming from.

My favorite part of this book was actually the author’s notes at the end, where Mr. Curtis wrote about how his own family influenced the story.  His relatives were the inspiration for two of the main characters, and their stories undoubtedly helped him produce such a realistic description of the era.  Mr. Curtis suggested that readers should take the time to listen to their own family members, in order to get a first-person account of history.

What do you think about his advice?  What do you know about how your parents or your grandparents grew up?  Is there anything that you don’t know about them, but might like to learn?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Travel Team, by Mike Lupica

Travel Team is an underdog story about Danny Walker, the shortest twelve-year old in Middletown.  Danny is a gifted basketball player, but he’s got some big shoes to fill.  His absentee father is a former pro ballplayer who might be best known for taking the local youth league to the national championships.  Danny’s family situation is interesting enough, but the real story begins when Danny fails to make the town’s “travel team” of top ballplayers when the coach thinks that he’s just too short to compete.

When Danny starts to think about taking a year off from basketball, his dad steps back into the picture and offers to start up an alternative ball team.  He and Danny then set about assembling an unlikely team made up of Danny, a few other misfit kids, and even the unthinkable….a girl!  After a series of losses, it quickly becomes clear that this team will never win an actual game.  Until, all of a sudden, they actually do!

I don’t want to give away too much of this book, because it’s worth reading for yourself.  It reminded me of all of Matt Christopher’s books that my classmates and I used to race through.  So many kids like to play sports, even though only a very small percentage will grow up to play professionally.  There’s so much that young people can learn from sports, and one of the most important things they can learn is how to lose well.

But what do you think?  Have you ever played on a sports team?  If so, what was something that you learned from your experience?