Monday, August 13, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Mighty Miss Malone

Today’s pick: The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2012

Publisher’s Description:

"We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful" is the motto of Deza Malone's family. Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie's beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father. The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.

My take:

Sometimes I find it hard to get into books that take place in the past, but not this one. The main character, Deza, drew me in right from the very beginning. She is a kid that loves learning and writing, so I could easily relate to her.
The challenges she faced in the story were heart-breaking – losing a home, moving away from a best friend, family members going missing, having teeth so rotten your own parents can’t stand the smell. It was great that the story ended up with a happy ending, although I thought it wrapped up a little too neatly to be entirely believable. But I loved the whole sense of sticking with your family that is so important in this story.
This is a story where the parents are clearly an important part of the main character’s life, even when they aren’t always physically present, though Deza and her brother definitely work to solve their own problems.

As a writer, I found so much to admire about this novel, but what I’d study most closely is the voice. It’s strong and consistent, helping to give Deza a well-defined personality right from the start.

My favourite quotes:
“…some people have kindness and gentleness wrapped around them like a blanket and there’s no doubting who they are.”
“Hoping is such hard work. It tires you out and you never seem to get any kind of reward. Hoping feels like you’re a balloon that has a pinhole that slowly leaks air.”

Other info:

Christopher Paul Curtis was born and raised in Flint, Michigan and currently lives in Detroit. When he first began writing, he worked for General Motors at an auto assembly plant and hated it. Now he is a full-time writer.

According to the Afterword, Christopher Paul Curtis had something he wanted this book to accomplish, besides being an enjoyable read: “I hope that Deza can serve as a voice for the estimated fifteen million American children who are poor, who go to bed hungry and whose parents struggle to make a dignified living to feed and care for them.”

Some of his research for the book is based on a collection of letters sent to President Roosevelt during the Great Depression.

In an interview at All About Adolescent Literacy, he says: “A lot of things that I'm writing I know won't end up in the book. They don't seem to have anything to do with the story, but I've learned to just let them go, because it gives me some kind of background on what it is that I'm writing about.”

We find out what he likes and doesn’t like about being a children’s book writer in a Scholastic interview with Christopher Paul Curtis 

Other books by this author include:

Elijah of Buxton, 2009
Mr. Chickee’s Messy Mission, 2008

Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money, 2007
Bucking the Sarge, 2006

Bud, Not Buddy, 1999
The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963

***Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was dreamed up by the wonderful Shannon Messenger. Visit her blog for an up-to-date list of all the bloggers who are participating and posting about middle grade books today!***


  1. Great choice Andrea. I really want to read this because I read Bud, Not Buddy and really enjoyed it.

  2. I have this one to read, just have not made it to it yet. Sounds like my kind of book so I am really looking forward to getting to it. And boy-great advice on learning to just let all the research/story that doesn't fit into the story go. Sometimes I try to keep it, make it doesn't, lol!

  3. I have this in my class haven't read it yet. I loved Bud, not Buddy - so I'm betting I'll like this one too! :)

  4. I recently won a copy of this from Linda Jackson and am waiting to read it aloud with my daughter because we love his other stories.

  5. I read the arc of this a while ago and I adored it! I said in my review that I thought it was Newbery-worthy. Thanks for giving it more love.

  6. I love Bud, Not Buddy by this author. I have been wanting to read this book because I know what a great writer he is. Your review made me want to read it soon so I can read it with my 5th grade students. Fabulous quotes!

  7. this looks like a great book, and i keep forgetting to add it to my tbr list! thanks for the reminder :)

  8. Love the post, I have this on my to-read list. I didn't realize he lives in Detroit - that's where I am!

  9. Thanks everyone! It's a good story, and I'm learning lately how important it is to start with a good story.


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