Deza Malone is the smartest girl in her class. She’s probably the smartest student in the whole town of Gary, Indiana. But this may not mean much of anything for one HUGE reason: it’s 1936, and her family, like so many others, can’t find work as the country is in the depths of the Great Depression. That’s not going to get her down, though. No way, no how.
But the reality is, there is no work, especially for a black family. So Dad decides it’s time to go up to his hometown of Flint, Michigan, where he’ll have a better time finding employment. The family will find a way to him after a couple months. It’s an emotional scene when he leaves, and Deza is far from pleased with him.
There are tons of bumps in the road, and to discuss them would be to take away from your joy of reading this book, so I won’t put anybody through that.
This is only the second Christopher Paul Curtis book I’ve read, and I am in love with his characters. The Malone family is kind of like the family we all wish we had (at least it sounds pretty good to me). Everyone (mom, dad, brother, and Deza) are all incredibly strong, each in their own ways. Dad makes everyone laugh, but in a smart way (his skills with selecting simple words are second to none). Older brother Jimmie can sing anyone’s worries away. Mom shows her strength in her ability to hold the family together, even in the worst of times. Deza is the family’s hope for the future.
As I was reading this book, I was really taken back by the way Curtis tells the story. There’s such a lyrical quality to his writing. This book would make a great read-aloud because of that.
I like this book, but when I was finished, it felt like something was lacking. I’m not sure what’s lacking, but there’s something. I wasn’t as drawn into this one as I was with The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963, either. Maybe it’s bad that I’m automatically comparing the two, but I couldn’t help it.
I recommend this book to anybody who likes Christopher Paul Curtis books. It’s his masterful writing style, and you won’t be disappointed. It’s probably great for grades 4-6, and definitely a good read for older students (and adults) as well.
My rating: I had a tough time rating this one. I want it to be a 5-star book, but it’s just not (for me, anyway). I was about to say 4 fish, but then I looked at my rating scale, and I don’t think it’s quite there for me, either. Ultimately, I’m going with 3 out of 5 fish.