“We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful.”
Those of you who have read Christopher Paul Curtis’s book, Bud Not Buddy may remember Bud’s friend Deza, an intelligent, caring and wise beyond her years girl who shares her first kiss with Bud. Well, Deza is back and this time she is the protagonist in Curtis’s book The Mighty Miss Malone.
It is during the Great Depression and times are tough for Deza and her family, as it is for many Black families in Gary, Indiana. Jobs are scarce, racial tensions are running high and Deza’s dad is in need of work to keep his family afloat. While the country is gripped in economic and social turmoil, the up coming boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling provides a distraction for the country (and quite possibly some symbolic hope for African – Americans).
Deza Malone is the smartest student in her class. She loves to read and write and finds solace by escaping into her books and writings. Deza lives in the family home with her father Roscoe, mother Peg and her brother Jimmie who is not a star student, but has a chance to become a star with his beautiful singing voice. The Malone family doesn’t have much in the way of possessions, but they do live in love. By the way, this is probably the most endearing quality that I found about this book. Kudos to Christopher Paul Curtis who showed a loving, Black family with two involved parents simply living and taking care of their kids (and each other) through trying circumstances. Becoming more and more frustrated with his job search, Roscoe decides that what he needs is to take a relaxing fishing trip on Lake Michigan with some friends to unwind. His friends end up dead and Roscoe goes missing for a few days, returning beaten and dazed. It is clear that whatever happened out there on that lake had a profound effect on not only Roscoe’s physical well-being, but also his mental state. It is also clear that the Malone’s lives are forever changed.
In an effort to pick up the pieces, Roscoe leaves his family and travels to Detroit looking for work and promising to send for them as soon as he is settled. Unwilling to let him go it alone, Peg packs up the kids and goes in search of him shortly thereafter. Deza is scared and sad to be leaving her beloved teacher, Mrs. Needham, and her friends, but she, like her mother, is brave and determined to find her father. What follows is a fantastic journey. Not fantastic in terms of bringing good news and well wishes. Fantastic in terms of finding strength and courage. Going boldly and fearlessly forward determined to reach one’s goal. Fantastic in terms of watching a family take care of one another in the most unexpected ways. Fantastic in terms of loving beyond limits and understanding. Deza learns a lot about life, loyalty and love on her journey to wonderful. She is a force to be reckoned with because she is never – and I mean NEVER – without hope. She is the mighty Miss Malone. This book is intended for ages 9 to 12.