Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
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Renata DeVore
English 225
March 2008

Bud, Not Buddy: A Childís View

After reading Bud, not Buddy I thought about how much the book had touched on different  emotions and made me think about different issues like abandonment, love, pain, survival instincts, and family. Then I began to wonder what a child would be thinking about during and after reading this book. What were the issues, if any, that they picked up on? So I had my son, who is 9, read it and then I decided to interview him about the book. I thought it would be informative for two reasons, one is that I would get a childís perspective, which is always interesting, and two is that my son is close to Buddyís age and I would be able to find out if he could relate to Buddy as a character.

Here are the questions I asked him, his answers, and my thoughts about his answers.

Did you like the book?
Yes, itís very good. Itís interesting; I like the main idea of the story

What is the main idea of the story?
Itís about a kid whoís trying to find his father and he had many adventures along the way. It kind of keeps you guessing about whatís going to happen next, like how heís going to deal with the problems.

What was your favorite part?
The part where he gets locked up in the shed because I kind of like the action part of it, it was climactic.

It caught me off guard when he first said this. I was thinking,Ē you liked that he got locked in a shed?Ē but then when he explained it was the action and the climactic feel I understood better. Itís still interesting that out of the whole book he picked that as his favorite though. I would pick the end where he finds someone to love him and care for him. Maybe itís a matter of sex? Male vs. female. With bats and dead things, and busting out windows, I guess that is pretty stereotypical ďboyĒ stuff. Now Iím curious to know what both girls and boys would say there favorite part is. Maybe there would be a pattern?

What are some of the emotions you saw people feeling in the book?
Sad, lonely, surprised, confused.

What do you mean by surprised?
Well, Herman E. Calloway was surprised that Bud was his grandson and thatís why he was sad too.

Who was confused?
Everyone who had to do with the end, where everyone had to try and figure out if it was his dad.

Originally, I planned to only ask him what emotions he saw, but when he said surprised and confused I was wondering where he got that from. Those arenít two emotions that I wouldíve picked out of the book. This is so interesting to see what the book was like through his eyes.

Did you start to feel any of those emotions while you were reading?
I could kind of feel his emotions, like I could put myself in his place and think wow I would be lonely or surprised if I was in his place.

Iím wondering if this is the same as when I get really involved with certain books. I almost become the character and itís like Iím completely emotionally involved in the story. Although, I donít think thatís what he meant here. It seems like he was still detached from the character and just empathizing. I wonder if itís personality or age that determines how emotionally involved someone gets with a book. Maybe itís both?

What were some of the problems that you saw Buddy dealing with?
I think that he had the problems along the way finding who he thought was his dad. Getting from place to place.

How well do you think he dealt with them?
I think he did pretty good because I think heís a pretty good liar so he got his way out of those situations, maybe not so easily, but he found a way to get out.

So here Iím thinking, ďmy son thinks he did a good job because he was so good at lying? Should I be worried?Ē

Would you have dealt with them differently?
I think maybe I couldíve handled them in a different way, maybe not very differently but ya.

I really thought he was going to say he wouldnít have lied. Iím worrying again!

Give me an example of one of the problems he dealt with and tell me how you would solve it.
Getting from place to place, instead of walking all that way I would find some nice person and see if they could bring me.

I thought this answer was so interesting because in a world where kids are being taught stranger danger, and the media is ripe with stories about child abductions, his solution was still so innocent. I liked that he could stay involved in the innocence of the book and didnít bring the ďreal worldĒ into his answer. (Because I know in real life my son would never ask a stranger for a ride).

Who was your favorite character?
Bud

Why?
Because I can put a comparison between us, like find how me and him are alike.

How are you two alike?
Well, weíre both kids, almost the same age, and we both speak our mind.

What instrument would you want to learn if you were Buddy?
Electric guitar

How would you feel if your grandfather treated you the way Budís grandfather did?
I donít think I would like it I would kind of be insulted and sad that he would feel that way.

Do you think that this book could actually be a real life story? Or do you think that nothing like this could ever happen?
I think the writer made a lot of the things sound realistic, not unrealistic so I think thatís something that could happen.

This was also interesting to hear. I think it says something about Christopher Paul Curtis as a writer that a child can read his books and find them believable. I also thought it was interesting because as an adult my answer wouldíve been no. In my mind, it just wouldnít be possible for an 11 year old kid to go off on his own on a journey to find his father. Although some of the things I know happen, like Bud getting locked in a shed.

Would you recommend this book to a friend?
Yes, I would, definitely 

What are youíre overall impressions of the book?
Itís a good book I think, for all ages, kids and adults alike.

This answer surprised me because I hadnít asked him if he thought the book could be read by everyone, I just asked for his impressions. Again, I think his answer says something about the author. This is a book my son could see himself enjoying still as an adult.

At the end of the interview, I was really glad that I had chosen to do it. I felt like I had spent some quality bonding time with my son but beyond that I felt like I had gotten to know him a little better. Our informal chit chat had allowed me to see into his mind and learn more about who he is as a person, not just as my son. Iím also glad I did this because I realized what a great tool this type of thing could be in a classroom. Itís always good to get kids to think about the information that they take in and an interview like this is so non-threatening, it also gives them your full attention and makes them feel as if their words matter. This experience is something Iíll be able to use one day in my own classroom. I plan to hang onto these questions so that one day I can have my own students read Bud, not Buddy and use my questions as a tool to enhance their reading and understanding of the book. In fact, now that I think of that I realize that this would be a good idea for me to do with every childrens book I read. I could pick out the best ones and come up with interview questions to go with them and then file them away somewhere to be used later. I know that a lot of classroom study guides have discussion questions to be answered at the end of the readings but I think this goes beyond that because it seems less like their doing homework and more like youíre really interested in what theyíre saying. It might even work to have the kids interview each other and then share each others answers with the class if they felt comfortable.

I  just had a thought;  interviews about books that deal with issues like Budís could also be a great way for kids to talk out their feelings if they're in a situation similar to Budís, because then they wouldnít be admitting itís their own feelings they would be speaking as Bud. Hmm, something for me to think on and remember.

 

Copyright 2008
Renata DeVore

 

Funded through the U.S. Dept. of Education, Title III Grant PO31A980143
Sherri Winans, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA
1999-2015