Bud, Not Buddy from a Nine-Year-Old’s Perspective
In sharing my enthusiasm with my family over the books we've been reading in this class, I had an epiphany of sorts. Since I began pursuing my education I've become preoccupied with my studies and the inordinate amounts of reading required. In the evenings, I would escape upstairs and dive into my assignments. I realized that I had slowly stopped reading to my children.
During our dinner conversation one evening, I saw the interest in my nine-year-old's eyes as I described the happenings contained in our most current book, Bud, Not Buddy. He started asking questions about the main character as if he was dying to know him personally. Although I was almost finished with the story, I asked if he'd like it read to him. That night we embarked on chapter one."
When Ben got home from school the next day, he asked, “Are we going to read tonight?” That night, as we snuggled up to devour the next one of Bud’s adventures, Ben’s older brothers joined the party. I didn’t want the evening to end. Having all of us together engaged with our imaginations instead of in front of a computer screen was priceless. Two hours later I was pushing everyone out the door to their bedrooms with a promise “to be continued.” My older sons were soon occupied by their own homework but Ben and I had a standing date.
Early last week when the class was discussing our thoughts on the next Think Piece, Sherri strongly suggested taking a different approach than we had with the previous two. I still wasn’t sure where I was going with the assignment when she mentioned the idea of reading a book to a child and interviewing him or her after completion. I knew this was exactly what I would do. And I also knew Ben would be game.
Since Ben was closest in age to Bud, I knew he would easily imagine himself walking in Bud’s shoes. He loves adventure, independence and freedom. Three characteristics embodied in the life of ten-year-old Bud Caldwell. As we lost ourselves in the story, I made mental notes of questions I was dying to ask my son. This approach would be a different doorway to conversation and perhaps one that might serve me well in future years.
Last night we read the final three chapters as Ben struggled to stay awake. Every time I paused, he perked up with a “please don’t stop!” As I read the final paragraphs and revealed the surprising twist, Ben was now fully conscious—and shocked. I told him to “sleep on it” and we would “download” his thoughts today.
My interview with Ben, after listening to Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis:
On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate this book?
It was an eight.
What would have made it a “ten?”
If Mr. Calloway was nicer and if we knew more about his mom.
What did you like about Bud?
I liked that he was smart, he had some nice friends, he was nice, and he was happy even though his life was really super hard.
If you had to describe Bud Caldwell to someone, what words would you use?
Smart. Positive. Funny. Brave.
What was your favorite part of the book?
I had three favorites. One was when Bud escaped from the shed. The second was when he snuck back in the house and poured water on Todd while he was sleeping. The third was when he met his fake family at the mission.
What made them your favorites?
I liked how he didn’t give up and figured out how to get out of the scary shed. Todd deserved being punished like that because he was mean to Bud for no reason. His fake family was really nice and it was nice to see someone finally care about him.
Who was your favorite character, besides Bud, and why?
Mr. Lewis. He was super funny and joked around a lot. He didn’t yell at Bud like everyone else always did. He was not mean like the police were.
What would you have done when Mr. Lewis stopped his car?
I probably would have come out if I was really hungry too.
Was there anyone in the band you liked a lot? Why?
I liked “Steady Eddie” because he gave him the saxophone. And Miss Thomas because she tried to be a mom to Bud.
What did you think of the nickname they gave him?
Perfect. He did sleep in and he was skinny.
Who was your least favorite character and why?
Definitely Todd! He was mean for no reason.
Was there any part of the book that scared that scared you? Why?
When Bud was in the shed. I could picture the fish heads and it being dark. And being stung by the hornets was really scary. And the box of vampire blood in the car.
Were you surprised to learn that Herman E. Calloway wasn’t actually his dad?
Yes. The whole time I thought he was but then I was kind of glad he wasn’t because he was so mean.
What were you hoping would happen in the end?
That his mom was really not dead.
Bud kept his mother’s special rocks in his suitcase. Is there something you would keep to remember me by if I died?
Probably some of your jewelry like your necklaces and rings.
Did you feel sad for Mr. Calloway when he found out his daughter had died?
Yes. I wish she didn’t have to die.
Did it help you understand why he was so mean?
Yes, he was sad and that made him mean to people.
Is there any part of the book that didn’t make sense to you?
Yes. Why did so many grown-ups have to be so mean to a kid?
Carpenter, Benjamin. Personal Interview. 23 Feb 2011.
~Loved the approach.
~Found it interesting that Ben's favorite parts were all in the beginning.
~Would like to see an "Afterword" for this. What did I think about after this was over? Do I have any
thoughts about how this relates to what I'm learning about children's literature?
This was my favorite of all our class assignments. Throughout the last year of my academic career, I have kept my experience separated from my family life. Even when this Children's Literature course began, I didn't give much thought to including my own children in my assignments. I'm so glad the idea of interviewing young readers was suggested. And I'm so glad Ben was a willing participant. In taking on the role of storyteller within my home, I realized how, no matter what the age, we're never too old for reading aloud. Just as Emily showed us in her Explorations Report, reading books out loud is pivotal part of the "learning-to-read" process. Although my children are much older than Hunter, I had a similar experience to seeing the close connection that was evident between Emily and her son from sharing a book together. This reminded me of something Nancy Johnson said at the Children's Literature Conference in her video address: "Stories nurture, sustain, inspire and entertain us. They bring us together when we feel alone." I would add "and reading those stories aloud brings another benefit." I also think it enhances the reading experience for the reader too. It forces you to pay attention and immerse yourself in the story and its characters .
Currently, Ben and I are embarking on Hattie Big Sky. Although it's a bit more challenging listening to a story from a sixteen-year-old girl's perspective than one of a ten-year-old boy, he is still engaged. When I see him wiggling around and fidgeting I worry that I've lost him but then he will raise his hand to comment or ask a question. (This is something he started doing in the middle of Bud, Not Buddy.) I am truly enjoying this new tradition and will hold on to it for as long as Ben allows. He gets to pick the next book.