Monday, April 2, 2018
Middle Grade Monday and Review: The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis. 248 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., January, 2018. 9780545156660. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)
Ain't nothin' little about Little Charlie Bobo. He's only twelve but is the size of a full-grown man and he sure does have a heap of heartache and troubles for one so young. It is 1858 and he subsists with his sharecropper parents on the Tanner plantation. When his father is killed in a freak accident while felling trees, he and his mother aren't sure what they'll do to survive. Then, Cap'n Buck, the plantation overseer comes to their door and claims that Little Charlie's father owes Mr. Tanner a heap of money. Seems that means that Little Charlie has to work it off by helping Cap'n recover some stolen property up north.
Don't like to read dialect, eh? Get over it. Little Charlie's first-person narrative is short, compelling, suspenseful and not to be missed. Christopher Paul Curtis is a masterful storyteller and The Journey of Little Charlie might be his best yet. Moments of suspense and, yes, utter terror are leavened with humor. Charlie may be uneducated but he is a keen observer, has heart and is quick to learn. He may have accepted slavery as a way of life, but he doesn't like cruelty. When he observes the ease with which blacks and whites live in Canada, Little Charlie grows to understand the injustice but feels helpless to act.
Cap'n Buck is truly, terrifyingly evil. His acts of brutality are not easy to read. Some care should be given to whom this book might be recommended. Give it to a thoughtful reader who likes to be challenged. Highly recommended!