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The Mighty Miss Malone

by Christopher Paul Curtis

Published by Wendy Lamb Books / Random House, 2012
320 pages
ISBN: 9780385734912

Ages 9-12

Podcast featuring this book

Deza Malone played a minor role in Bud Not Buddy (Delacorte Press, 1999) as the girl Bud met in a Hooverville, but she’s front and center here in the story of an African American family struggling to stay together at the height of the Depression. Deza is a bright, spirited eleven-year-old aspiring writer who often uses big words and flowery language to try to impress her teacher, a woman whose kindness extends to advising Deza to keep her vocabulary and her ego grounded. Deza's older brother Jimmie is big on personality and troublemaking, not to mention singing talent, but, at fifteen, he’s very small for his age. It’s a worry for Jimmie and their parents, but there’s no money for a doctor, just as there’s no money for a dentist for Deza’s sore teeth. They are barely getting by in their rented house in Gary, Indiana, when their father is in a tragic boating accident. The sole survivor, he is wracked by guilt and leaves home, ostensibly to find more steady work in Flint. But no word comes from him. When the family is evicted, Deza, her mother and brother first get help from some of Jimmie’s questionable acquaintances before hopping a train to Flint. They end up in a Hooverville, unable to find the children’s father or a place to live. Like Bud, Not Buddy, Deza’s story is both funny and poignant. There are colorful characters, memorable scenes, and moments of true compassion in a novel that balances some surprisingly sad events and an honest depiction of some of the racism of the era with an almost fairytale ending, although one that doesn't solve every problem or tie up every loose end. (MS) ©2012 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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