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Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 02/01/2012 When Bud Caldwell (from Bud, Not Buddy, BCCB 11/99) had a brief stay in a Flint, Michigan Hooverville, the experience was doubly noteworthy: for the kindness of strangers, and for his first kiss. The instigator of that kiss was Deza Malone, an “older woman” of twelve who was waiting in the camp with her mother while her father looked for work. Deza takes the spotlight here, as Curtis creates a stand-alone backstory for the Malones, a family of four that is managing, just barely, to make it through the Depression until the double tragedies of the Joe Louis 1936 boxing defeat and Mr. Malone’s boating accident on Lake Michigan leave Deza’s father a broken man who takes off under the guise of job hunting. Deza, a whip-smart little paragon of self-styled “verbosity,” her mother, and her undersized older brother Jimmie, lose their Gary, Indiana home and hit the road for Flint in search of Mr. Malone. As Deza struggles to piece together some sort of normal life between school and their Hooverville shack, their mother juggles part-time cleaning jobs, and Jimmie takes off to parlay his singing ability into nightclub work. Money begins to arrive at Flint general delivery, but Mr. Malone doesn’t reappear to fulfill his promise to reunite the family, and it’s up to Deza and her mother to unravel the dual mysteries of their benefactor and the father’s whereabouts. The grinding burden of the working poor is handled even more poignantly and effectively here than in Bud, Not Buddy, as Deza and her family heartwrenchingly demonstrate how accustomed one becomes to hand-me-downs, welfare food, rotted teeth, and precarious employment. The ending, though, cautiously suggests a brighter future for the Malones (and perhaps a further title on Jimmie, should Curtis so deem), and readers will be relieved to see them “back on the road to Wonderful.” EB - Copyright 2012 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 02/01/2012 Gr 4–7—In 1936 Gary, IN, 12-year-old Deza Malone is an outstanding student and beloved daughter in an African American family challenged by economic hardship. Her mother's job as a domestic allows them to just get by, but leaves them unable to address Deza's rotting teeth and older brother Jimmie's stunted growth. When her father seeks work in Michigan and fails to keep in touch with them, Mother packs them up to go and find him. Their journey takes them to a Hooverville camp where Jimmie's beautiful singing voice is discovered by an itinerant musician who convinces him to strike out on his own. Mother and Deza try to make a life for themselves in Flint but are discouraged by poverty and discrimination and their inability to find Father. When Deza hears that Jimmie is making it big in Detroit, she sets out to find him, starting a chain of events that lead to a hopeful yet heartbreaking conclusion. The strength of this companion to Bud, Not Buddy (Delacorte, 1999) is its vivid characterization and clear sense of place and time. Deza is an appealing, indomitable heroine whose narrative voice reflects both wit and pathos. Period details are skillfully woven into the story with the Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling fight playing an important role in underscoring the sense of defeat for African Americans as they struggle with the Depression. Careful readers may be mystified by the discrepancies between Buddy's account of meeting Deza and Deza's, and they might wish for a more comforting resolution, but Curtis does not sugarcoat reality and focuses instead on the resilience of a memorable character. An absorbing read.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY - Copyright 2012 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 01/01/2012 Deza Malone, 12, has a couple of big things going for her. She comes from a strong family, and she is smart as a whip. But there is plenty of bad to go along with the good. It’s 1936 and her dad can’t find work; her brother, Jimmie, he of the beautiful singing voice, isn’t growing; and her teeth, full of cavities, require treatment of cotton soaked with camphor. Can things get worse? Certainly. Her father disappears and her mother moves the family from Gary to Flint, which lands the trio in a Hooverville shack. Then Jimmie takes off to sing. Curtis tries to do too much here. Consequently, just when readers are getting invested, the story changes course or important plot points are dropped. Deza is devastated when she overhears her father say her rotting teeth make him avert his head, but her suffering is forgotten until, at the conclusion, she goes to a dentist. On the plus side, Deza is a snappy character that will grab readers, and Curtis’ portrayal of a family’s love for each other feels real and true. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Newbery-winner Curtis has a huge following. Readers will be enticed by his return to the Depression-era setting of Bud, Not Buddy (1999) and his reintroduction of Deza, one of the characters from that book. - Copyright 2012 Booklist.