Bud is the name of the main
character in this Depression-era novel. He is a precocious ten-year old black orphan who, at the beginning of the novel, has
been placed in a foster home. He knows that the boy in the household, who is twelve, will bully him; and he is right. After
a harrowing night being locked in their tool shed, Bud escapes to look for his father. Before her death, his mother had a
flyer for a jazz band which had a picture of a man playing a cello. The flyer proclaims that he is Herman E. Calloway; and
Bud is convinced that the man is his daddy, even though his mother had never told him so.
The character of Bud is truly
brought to life in the first-person narrative. We know what Bud thinks and why he thinks it. We become well acquainted with
his “Rules of Life” which are numbered and listed at the appropriate time of application. For example, when Bud
found the man he thought was his daddy, he told another band member, “Yes, sir. But isn’t it just my luck to come
clean across the state to find my daddy and he turns out to be a mean old coot?” From this, we learn of Bud’s
“RULES AND THINGS NUMBER 63:”
Never, Ever Say Something Bad About Someone You Don’t Know – Especially
When You’re Around a Bunch of Strangers. You Never Can Tell Who Might Be Kin to That Person or Who Might Be a Lip-Flapping,
The scene of the Depression
is set early in the first chapter when the matron of the orphanage is talking to Bud and the other little boy who had been
placed in a home. She says, “Now, now, boys, no need to look so glum. I know you don’t understand what it means
but there’s a depression going on all over this country. People can’t find jobs and these are very, very difficult
times for everybody. We’ve been lucky enough to find two wonderful families who’ve opened their doors for you.”
The universal theme of a
boy trying to find himself and his roots is portrayed beautifully in this story. Bud shows a lot of spunk, and yet, he is
a little boy who becomes overwhelmed by his situation. The reader will sympathize when he finally shows emotion; and surprisingly,
it happens during a happy time. “One second I was laughing my head off and the next second I was feeling very surprised
‘cause something hit me just as hard as Snaggletooth MacNevin had smacked Herman E. Calloway. . . I was smiling and
laughing and busting my gut so much that I got carried away and some rusty old valve squeaked open in me and then . . . woop,
zoop, sloop . . . tears started jumping out of my eyes so hard that I had to cover my face with the big red and white napkin
that was on the table.”
Young people will enjoy the
“jazzy” feel of the novel, especially the funky names of the band and its members. The Dusky Devastators of the
Depression were Lefty Lewis, Doug ‘the Thug’ Tennant, Harrison ‘Steady’ Eddie Patrick, Roy ‘Dirty
Deed’ Breed, and Chug ‘Doo-Doo Bug’ Cross. When it is decided that Bud was going to stay with them, they
give him a saxophone and name him Sleepy LaBone. The bebop language of these southern black musicians is used seamlessly in
the lively dialogue.
The young reader
will be caught up in Bud’s effort to find his father while learning a little about what life was like during the Depression.
Emotions will run from laughter to tears as Bud shares his antics in such a lively way.
Christopher Paul. 1999. BUD, NOT BUDDY. New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN: 03853230069.