Monday, March 5, 2018

MMGM: The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis


Newbery Medalist Christopher Paul Curtis brings his trademark humor and heart to the story of a boy struggling to do right in the face of history's cruelest evils.

Twelve-year-old Charlie is down on his luck: His dad just died, the share crops are dry, and the most fearsome man in Possum Moan, Cap’n Buck, says Charlie’s dad owed him a lot of money. Fearing for his life, Charlie strikes a deal to repay his father’s debt by accompanying Cap’n Buck to Detroit in pursuit of some folks who have stolen from him. It’s not too bad of a bargain for Charlie . . . until he comes face-to-face with the fugitives and discovers that they escaped slavery years ago and have been living free. Torn between his guilty conscience and his survival instinct, Charlie needs to figure out his next move—and soon. It’s only a matter of time before Cap’n Buck catches on.


One of the things I've always loved about Christopher Paul Curtis's books is the way he brings his characters to life.  Before I was two chapters into the book, Little Charlie was feeling awfully real to me.  The use of dialect though challenging to read at first added to the vision in my mind of a large-in-stature, but rather naive in experience, twelve-year-old boy.  But as Little Charlie faces the loss of his father, the loss of his home, and being forced into working with a man he's heard nothing but evil about, his naivety gets left behind.  Although not as fast as I wanted it to.  One of the things that happens to me when I really start to care about a character, is that I want to talk to them and give them advice.  That's impossible of course, but it makes the book all the more compelling as I fly through the pages wanting to know what happens next.  Charlie's experiences traveling with Cap'n Buck slowly open his eyes to the true purposes of their trip and he's forced to decide just what he's going to do about it.  As with all of Curtis's books, this one leaves the reader thinking about his/her own journey and the choices we make along the way.  And frankly the book is a powerful reminder of just what great evil exists in the form of slavery.  There were a few things that were harder to read, but being historical couldn't be left out if the story was to be as potent as it had the power to be.  Curtis has written another powerful tale of a young man forced to grow into manhood too soon.  I'd definitely put this on my favorites list.  This is also bound to be a book strongly in contention for the Newbery Medal in a year's time. 

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