by Christopher Paul Curtis
First sentence: “Once upon a time…”
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Deza Malone has a pretty good life in Gary, Indiana. She loves school, she has the best big brother in the whole world (so what if he can’t spell or write? He has the most beautiful singing voice), and her mom and dad love her to pieces.
Sure, it’s the middle of the Great Depression, and her dad is out of work, but they’re making it. It’s tough, but they’re making it.
Then her dad decides to go on a fishing trip to Lake Michigan, and everything changes. Her dad goes missing for a few days, and when he comes back, he’s different. Then, he decides that what he really needs to do is go to Flint, Michigan, to look for work. He takes off. And because families are supposed to stick together, Deza, her mother, and her brother uproot themselves from wonderful Gary and head to Flint to find him.
There are many good things about this one (there’s a reason Curtis has a Newbery and an Newbery Honor to his name), but chief among them is Deza’s voice. From the opening pages, you get a sense of this girl, and I dare you not to love her. She’s a smart girl, observant, and creative. She’s fiercely loyal to her family and her friends, and yet she can adapt and make new friends pretty easily. Sure, the book brushes on darker issues of poverty, of homelessness, of racism. (I was disappointed at how racists the Michiganders were. Seriously. What good is integrated schooling if you are just going to write off the black kids? Ah… and that’s the crux of the situation, isn’t it?) But even though it deals with some heavy issues, the book is never heavy, depressing, or down. Deza’s interminable spirit lifts the whole book and lets it soar.
Which makes it a pretty good read.