The Journey of Little Charlie
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 . . .

The Journey of Little Charlie Details

TitleThe Journey of Little Charlie
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 1st, 1970
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Childrens, Middle Grade, Cultural, African American

The Journey of Little Charlie Review

  • Hannah Greendale
    January 1, 1970
    It is, and will ever remain, a great mystery why this book didn’t win the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The Journey of Little Charlie reads like a middle-grade version of The Underground Railroad, as told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old boy forced to accompany a brutish slave catcher. Due to advanced diction and an authentic first-person voice, would recommend this for book advanced readers or upper middle-graders (ages 10 to 14). “You needs to be more like a It is, and will ever remain, a great mystery why this book didn’t win the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The Journey of Little Charlie reads like a middle-grade version of The Underground Railroad, as told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old boy forced to accompany a brutish slave catcher. Due to advanced diction and an authentic first-person voice, would recommend this for book advanced readers or upper middle-graders (ages 10 to 14). “You needs to be more like a bumbly bee, Charlie. Ain’t you never seent how them bees’ll burrow theyself into so many flowers that they very color change? They go from being yellow and black and common-looking to wearing balls of gold all o’er every square inch of theyselves. And there ain’t no mistaking neither that once them bees is wearing those robes of gold, they’s close to Jesus as they can get, they’s happy as anything living can be. They’ll sit on the edge of that flower just soaking it all in afore they starts buzzing their wings and celebrating that sound they makes. That’s where you need to be if you gonna learn how to work these fields; you need to quit thinking so much and listen to that buzz.”
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  • Betsy
    January 1, 1970
    I don’t know Christopher Paul Curtis personally, but if I had to harbor a guess I’d say he’s the type of author that doesn’t like to make things too easy for himself. That’s one of my theories. Another is that he’s a writer that, as a rule, listens to his creations. Folks say that when you write, your characters have a tendency to take on a life of their own. You might try to get them to go one way and they’ll just peel off and go another without so much as a bye-your-leave. A character, a good I don’t know Christopher Paul Curtis personally, but if I had to harbor a guess I’d say he’s the type of author that doesn’t like to make things too easy for himself. That’s one of my theories. Another is that he’s a writer that, as a rule, listens to his creations. Folks say that when you write, your characters have a tendency to take on a life of their own. You might try to get them to go one way and they’ll just peel off and go another without so much as a bye-your-leave. A character, a good character, has a strong personality that will not be denied. And in the case of The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis, a hijacking was clearly involved. As Mr. Curtis says in his Author’s Note, he was going to alternate the text of this book between two boys. Little Charlie (white) and Sylvanus Demarest (black). Only problem is, he started writing for Little Charlie first and, as he says, “the story had other plans.” So it is that Mr. Curtis has written his first middle grade novel starring a white kid with a mouth full of Southern dialect. None of this book feels like it could have been easy to write. But reading it? Easiest thing in the world, and downright pleasant to boot.Things look bad for our hero. Little Charlie is kind of having an unfortunate run at the moment. First his dad just up and dies on him while chopping down a tree. Then he’s almost arrested for killing his dad (the old “a tree did it" excuse isn’t panning out for him). And now, worst of all, a horrifying overseer from a rich neighbor is claiming Little Charlie’s dad owed him money and, as repayment, he’s taking Little Charlie to the North on a job. According to “the cap’n”, as the man is called, they’re just going to collect on a longstanding debt. Problems arise, however, when it becomes clear that the “debt” consists of runaway slaves. Suddenly Little Charlie doesn’t want anything to do with this business, but the cap’n has other plans. Particularly when he discovers that the slaves he’s catching have a son up in Canada by the name of Sylvanus. The cap’n is convinced he can get the full family back to the South. What he doesn’t realize is that when Little Charlie is set on doing the right thing, not a man in the world should stand in his way.So let’s sit down and examine the very first sentence in this book. Not the James Baldwin quote, though that is noteworthy. Not the place setting that puts it, “Just outside of Possum Moan, South Carolina – August 1858”, though that doesn’t hurt, and I suspect Mr. Curtis should be given extra points for coming up with “Possum Moan” as a place name anyway. The real first sentence reads, “I’d seent plenty of animals by the time I was old ‘nough to start talking, but only one kind worked me up so much that it pult the first real word I said out of my mouth.” Okay then. Curtis isn’t going halfsies to ease you into this. That’s dialect, pure and simple. Southern dialect, and written on the page. Pulling from the Mark Twain School of spelling and grammar, the first official written page of this book doesn’t make it easy for the reader so you’d better grab on from the get-go and get on board with his style, or let go and find yourself another book because he is NOT going to slow down for you. The upside of dialect is that it’s a shortcut into a specific place and culture. The downside is that some readers will give up on it instantly. I’m including adults in that assessment. This is a true pity since Mr. Curtis, ever the wordsmith, knows how to get a good line out of Little Charlie’s particular way of seeing the world. For example, consider the following sentences:“But I seent it, and unseeing something’s the same as unringing a bell; it ain’t never been done. I don’t care how much you want to get rid of the remembering, you might as well not fight it, you might as well jus’ go ‘head and make yourself a holster, ‘cause that memory is yourn and you gonna be toting it ‘round for the rest of your life.”"If the chance come up, go sneak a look at the backs of Alda Daponte’s hands and arms. She wasn’t but four when it happened and there’s still dirt that got blowed into her so hard that it went under her skin and ain’t coming out till the worms chaw through and reclaim it.”“You can learn from anybody. Even dimwits can teach you if you listen careful and pick out the kernels of corn from the horse crap they’s dishing out.”“… even a twenty-year-old, half-dead porch mutt with a snout full of snot wouldn’t have no problems pointing out which direction the cap’n come from and which way he was heading, not even in a hurricane.”Honestly, it does remind me of Pogo from time to time, but that’s hardly a problem for me. And to be completely honest here, I was hooked on the voice by page three. Colloquialisms. They slay me.Of course, Christopher Paul Curtis is perhaps best known for his characters. He brings them to life in all sorts of subtle ways. Gets deep into their heads and then, through their eyes, is somehow capable of rendering the people around his protagonists three-dimensional as well. Darned if I know how he does it. Little Charlie himself is a good example of this, particularly since he’s a flawed character. There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether or not kids are capable of understanding a historical character who grows and changes through the course of a book, particularly if part of their journey involves how they see race. Honestly, the book this reminded me the most of was The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz. In both cases you have a rural, ignorant white character that grows and changes slowly. Charlie’s journey, however, is a bit faster than you might expect. He uses the term “darky” and he is allowed some resentment when he realizes that Sylvanus and his friends dress better than he does. Otherwise, he’s a pretty forward thinking individual. Now we can go back and forth and debate the degree to which this feels real, but for my part I felt that Mr. Curtis kept Charlie within the confines of his times pretty securely. Compared to his countrymen he makes huge mental strides, but in terms of today he would still have quite a far ways to go. Makes for a good talk with kids when they read this book, that’s for sure.You know how I can judge whether or not a villain in a book is any good? It’s easy. If, at a certain point in the book, I can read no further without knowing for certain if the baddie will get their just desserts I will (oh horror of horrors) be compelled to skip to the end of the story. And in the cap’n Mr. Curtis has created a magnum opus of scum and villainy. I haven’t felt this wrapped up in a soul this shriveled since I read Lauren Wolk’s Wolf Hollow a couple years ago. The cap’n belongs to a longstanding tradition of giggling sociopaths. You know the kind I mean. You see them crop up on television shows and in movies all the time. Their power derives not so much from their evil acts (which, in the case of this book, are far more horrifying than you usually see in middle grade fiction) but the sheer pleasure they take in causing pain. The cap’n is the strongest bad guy Curtis has ever conjured up. He’s like an escapee from Django Unchained. A bonified sadist lurking in the pages of a children’s book, and it all comes down to his perverse sense of humor. If you fear for Little Charlie and Sylvanus, and you do, you have very good reason for it. I read a review of this book that said that in terms of heart, characters, thematic elements, and sheer literary quality, Mr. Curtis is the one to beat, but that the area where he falls short more often than not is in his plotting. In his Author’s Note Mr. Curtis does mention that when he writes, “Even though there is no outline, most times when I start a novel I do have an idea where I want the story to go, but (and I’ve learned this through time and pain and struggle) if the story is a good one, it has a mind of its own and eventually it goes where it wants to go.” The critic said that in the case of this book the ending could have had more punch and pizzazz. I’ve been chewing this over in my mind for a while, Certainly I recognize that I don’t generally pick up a Curtis book with plot in mind. He’s not a plot-forward kind of guy. Compare this book, for example, to The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras, coming out around the same time. That book runs helter skelter on the plot, working characters and motivations in as it scurries towards the finish. Curtis, by and large, is a slice of life kind of guy. He doesn’t immerse you in the time period as much as he immerses you in the brains of his heroes. There’s a reason he remains glued to first person narratives. But even as I say this, I’d also argue that while some of his books do meander a bit, I felt that this one had a definite end goal in mind. Yes, Charlie and Sylvanus are saved in a kind of deus ex machina fashion. No question. But not since Elijah of Buxton was I gripping my seat for quite this long a period of time. And that’s got a lot to do with the plot too, you know. A lot.I’ll confess to you that due to the state of the world today, I’ve a weird inclination to take any children’s novel I see and to examine it closely, just in case it’s saying something about . . . well . . . the state of the world today. Since this is a book starring a poor, ignorant white boy I wondered if there was some underlying theme about privilege. In the end, though, I think Mr. Curtis is going for something bigger. One passage from his Author’s Note that really stuck with me (particularly in the past few weeks) is when he wrote, “We’re all heroes in our dreams. When looking back at some grand historical injustice I’m sure you’ve probably done as I have and said, ‘If I had been around at that time I would’ve…’ Then you fill in the blank with whatever courageous, life-endangering action you would have taken to right this wrong. Which is fine, except chances are good that that’s pretty much a self-delusional lie.” But all is not lost. In Little Charlie, Mr. Curtis wanted to show that once in a while you find someone in this life that carries with them that “great courage to which we all could aspire.” As an author, he puts that courage down on the page. He then puts us in the head of our hero so that we can see his doubts and feel his fear, just as we would fear. Then he does the right thing and, through him, we have done the right thing too. For just a moment, we are heroes in another man’s story. That’s why we dream of what we might do if we faced the impossible. And maybe, with the help of stories like this one, readers will have just that much more courage when their call comes. A great grand book that stands taller than its slight packaging would lead you to believe.For ages 9-12.
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  • Monica Edinger
    January 1, 1970
    I am on the record as being a huge fan of Curtis's Buxton books --from Elijah of Buxton (was on the Newbery Committee that gave it an honor) to Madman of Piney Woods (my starred Horn Book review). This one is as terrific as the others. While the other two books featured black male protagonists in this one Curtis is featuring a young white male, the child of poor white pre-Civil War sharecroppers. After horrific events that leave him without family, Little Charlie Bobo (actually a twelve-year-old I am on the record as being a huge fan of Curtis's Buxton books --from Elijah of Buxton (was on the Newbery Committee that gave it an honor) to Madman of Piney Woods (my starred Horn Book review). This one is as terrific as the others. While the other two books featured black male protagonists in this one Curtis is featuring a young white male, the child of poor white pre-Civil War sharecroppers. After horrific events that leave him without family, Little Charlie Bobo (actually a twelve-year-old the size of an adult man) is forced to go with the local plantation's overseer to capture some runaway enslaved people. Little Charlie's voice and dialect is spot-on for a person of his class and situation; he has never been to school and can't read. That is, spot-on, as much as I can tell --- I'm certainly no expert on what it would sound like. Some have referenced Twain which makes sense as he certainly did use such dialog himself in his writing. Some have complained that it was challenging to read -- I found it quite easy. Curtis is able to give you such a great sense of his boy protagonists -- they are always a tad "fragile", pensive, and so so good at heart.From the start Little Charlie is good, everything that happens early on makes that very clear. What he is also is racist, prejudiced, and extremely ignorant. His journey with the evil slave catcher is one of learning, growing, and changing --- what we would wish for all who are as limited in early experience as Charlie is. There are some very dark moments in this book, extraordinary cruelty and brutality, yet all presented in a way that older children can definitely manage --- this is very much a middle grade book. I noticed someone writing that she planned to read it aloud to her 5th graders. I would be cautious with this, be mindful of the listeners --- who they are, their own lives, and how this could make them feel. I see it as for those ready for this harsh history lesson, say 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.There are also some warm moments, Curtis's trademark humor, and description. I feel that I can recognize his style when he describes the slave catcher's rankness, a train ride for a boy who has never been on one, and the pain of enslaved people being retaken and separated. Most of all, there is the strength and power of the Canadians --- whites and blacks together.This feels like a book of the moment, a #blacklivesmatter for the 19th century and today. Outstanding.
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  • Brenda Kahn
    January 1, 1970
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, dialect. Get over it! It's Christopher Paul Curtis! You can't miss this one. It might be his best yet. Challenge yourself as a reader and encourage your students to do so as well. This is a hard read with some hard truths and one that needs telling. So read it, share it, discuss it. If you absolutely can't take struggling with the dialect, find the audiobook. I cannot wait to reread this with my ears. It's narrated by one of my favorite narrators.3/17/19 ETA: Just finished the Yeah, yeah, yeah, dialect. Get over it! It's Christopher Paul Curtis! You can't miss this one. It might be his best yet. Challenge yourself as a reader and encourage your students to do so as well. This is a hard read with some hard truths and one that needs telling. So read it, share it, discuss it. If you absolutely can't take struggling with the dialect, find the audiobook. I cannot wait to reread this with my ears. It's narrated by one of my favorite narrators.3/17/19 ETA: Just finished the audio as a reread and highly recommend it, especially if the dialect causes you reading difficulties.
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  • Clarissa
    January 1, 1970
    This was an amazing book. Little Charlie travels from South Carolina to Detroit and into Canada with a slave catcher, and learns to reject that part of his heritage, and realize that slaves and former slaves are as human as he is. Despite the serious topic, and the tense and exciting scenes, the book is very funny! Written in dialect I found myself thinking in dialect after I had been reading for a while.
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  • Leonard Kim
    January 1, 1970
    If Curtis, a great writer, could be said to have a flaw, I would say it is plotting. It is ironic that it is in this book that he admits in his author’s note that he doesn’t outline his novels ahead of time, even though he recommends it as good practice. Knowing that explains some of the structural quirks of his previous books. The reason I say it’s ironic is because after the first chapter, this book does have a strong, straightforward plot, and combining that with his usual gifts, I think it m If Curtis, a great writer, could be said to have a flaw, I would say it is plotting. It is ironic that it is in this book that he admits in his author’s note that he doesn’t outline his novels ahead of time, even though he recommends it as good practice. Knowing that explains some of the structural quirks of his previous books. The reason I say it’s ironic is because after the first chapter, this book does have a strong, straightforward plot, and combining that with his usual gifts, I think it may objectively be his best novel yet, though perhaps with less raw emotional impact than something like Watsons.
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  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    Oh Christopher Paul Curtis, can you do no wrong? Perhaps, but I didn't find any in this book! I was gripped right from the beginning by Charlie's voice. In my uneducated opinion, Curtis nails the dialect from the first sentence. What would this book be without Charlie's narration in his dialect? It would still be good, but the dialect develops the character even more than his actions do, and is one of the best things about the book. It is gives the reader a fuller picture of Charlie's way of vie Oh Christopher Paul Curtis, can you do no wrong? Perhaps, but I didn't find any in this book! I was gripped right from the beginning by Charlie's voice. In my uneducated opinion, Curtis nails the dialect from the first sentence. What would this book be without Charlie's narration in his dialect? It would still be good, but the dialect develops the character even more than his actions do, and is one of the best things about the book. It is gives the reader a fuller picture of Charlie's way of viewing and interpreting the world. I did not find the dialect difficult to read, but I can imagine that some readers (both young and old) would find it a challenge. But it is worth it!My only reservation about this book is that Curtis does not sugarcoat or glide past the horrors of slave catching. He certainly doesn't glorify it or go into more detail than is necessary, but it can be difficult to stomach at times. Yet, I think that is part of what made this book so gripping. Not that I was enthralled with the violence, but it creates a weight to the story that makes you take it more seriously than just another middle grade historical fiction book.This review really doesn't the book justice because I can't figure out how to say all the good things I want to say about it!
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  • Destinee Sutton
    January 1, 1970
    You can use this book to teach kids the meaning of irony. There is nothing little about Little Charlie. He is literally a very big kid at 12 years old and over six feet tall. He is very intelligent even though he doesn't know how to read. He is brave and defiant even though for most of this story he follows orders. He may not know a lot about the world (he's hardly been outisde Possum Moan, South Carolina) but he seems to carry more wisdom than many of the adults around him. There's some classic You can use this book to teach kids the meaning of irony. There is nothing little about Little Charlie. He is literally a very big kid at 12 years old and over six feet tall. He is very intelligent even though he doesn't know how to read. He is brave and defiant even though for most of this story he follows orders. He may not know a lot about the world (he's hardly been outisde Possum Moan, South Carolina) but he seems to carry more wisdom than many of the adults around him. There's some classic dramatic irony, too: (view spoiler)[Charlie goes along with Cap'n Buck because Buck threatens to kill Charlie's mother, but careful readers know from Chapter 8 that Charlie is already an orphan. (hide spoiler)]As a poor white child of the South in the 1850s Little Charlie Bobo is the unlikely narrator of a book about slavery and Buxton, Ontario. What does Little Charlie really know about slavery? Why did the author choose to tell this story through Little Charlie? In the afterward, CPC says he originally intended to tell the story by alternating between Little Charlie and another character, Sylvanus Demarest, but somehow Little Charlie Bobo took over. If readers can get the hang of the Southern dialect with phonetic spelling (e.g. apocky-lips) it will be worth the effort. This is a great yarn with a truly horrible villain, high stakes, and an unlikely hero. Be warned there's a lot of violence mentioned in the pages. Be warned that this is historical fiction that doesn't much sugarcoat the racist language and ideas of the time. I really liked the anecdote about the Hamburg bridge collapsing and some of the crew using the opportunity to fake their deaths and start over -- a second chance. Only trouble with that is all you end up doing is building that same old life back again. You jus' a actor moving on to another performance. You might get a different group of characters, a different set, but in the end you's starring in the same old stinking play.One morning you gonna wake up and wonder who was the lucky ones, them that went down with the train and was snuffed out quick, or them that lived on and was having to get their train wreck played out slow over years and years.It sounds bleak, but it effectively makes its point. The story certainly has an impact on Little Charlie Bobo.
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  • Laura Harrison
    January 1, 1970
    I was so sure I would love this book. I am a huge Christopher Paul Curtis fan. The Journey of Little Charlie was disappointing to say the least. Even the cover art is misleading. It gives you the impression that it is about two boys who are traveling together. They do at the very end. Maybe 4 pages worth. Traveling is an overstatement. Mostly they are on a train together. The book was not a fun read. I doubt children will enjoy it. There is sadness and abuse or at least the threat of it througho I was so sure I would love this book. I am a huge Christopher Paul Curtis fan. The Journey of Little Charlie was disappointing to say the least. Even the cover art is misleading. It gives you the impression that it is about two boys who are traveling together. They do at the very end. Maybe 4 pages worth. Traveling is an overstatement. Mostly they are on a train together. The book was not a fun read. I doubt children will enjoy it. There is sadness and abuse or at least the threat of it throughout. In animal and human form. Some of the abuse is actually explained so you know exactly what it is and how it is done. No thanks. I could have done without the details. I can't think of a joyous moment or any feeling of real happiness. In the beginning you think it may be a boy and his loyal dog story. That sweet premise ends rather abruptly. Or a story about a boy and his parents. Same deal. Or a boy and his widowed mom. Nope. The dialect didn't add anything to the story. Just because you are poor doesn't mean you can't speak well. Or at least better than was portrayed in the book. Maybe one or two Southern dialects could have been used that weren't so demeaning. I wonder how Southern readers will feel about it. I will say it was a pretty quick read. Mostly because you want some relief for Charlie. Relief that never really comes. Even when he decides to do the right thing at the end, he is horribly beaten and nearly killed. Worse yet, the author "tells" the ending instead of "shows". One of the worst crimes in writing. Instead of a surprise or happy freeing of the husband and wife escaped slaves, every step of the way is spelled out. Little Charlie even requests they don't kill him because he is bringing them to a blacksmith to take off their chains. Then he tells them they are going to get into a boat and go to Canada...and that is it. I sure miss the editors of old. By old I mean like ten years ago. I bet they could have made something wonderful out of The Journey of Little Charlie.
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  • Joanne Kelleher
    January 1, 1970
    Cap'n Buck, the antagonist of this story, was the most despicable, amoral, ignorant character that I have ever come across in a middle grade book. The saddest part is that he is representative of real slave-catchers who were just as brutal, if not more so.I listened to the audio book (which helped with the dialect) and at times I had to stop listening because the events were so upsetting.The second half of the book was a bit easier to handle than the first half, especially as Charlie begins to t Cap'n Buck, the antagonist of this story, was the most despicable, amoral, ignorant character that I have ever come across in a middle grade book. The saddest part is that he is representative of real slave-catchers who were just as brutal, if not more so.I listened to the audio book (which helped with the dialect) and at times I had to stop listening because the events were so upsetting.The second half of the book was a bit easier to handle than the first half, especially as Charlie begins to think for himself and to question his role in the Cap'n's mission. Part of the book takes place in Canada and I enjoyed learning how progressive Canada was in the pre-Civil War period. Little Charlie's innocent reactions to the Canadian way of life were endearing.This was a very tough read, but rewarding.
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  • Kirsten
    January 1, 1970
    Off the charts. Amazing. Read in one sitting. Deserving of every starred review and accolade. Second reading for our Mother/Daughter Book Group. I didn't remember the violence but it was an integral part of the story. This is why we read. To learn about times and places that we could never imagine. A triumphant story of growth for Little Charlie.
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  • Richie Partington
    January 1, 1970
    Richie’s Picks: THE JOURNEY OF LITTLE CHARLIE by Christopher Paul Curtis, Scholastic Press, January 2018, 256p., ISBN: 978-0-545-15666-0“Oligarch…(especially in Russia) a very rich business leader with a great deal of political influence”“Time moves different when something you ain’t ‘specting to happen goes ‘head on and happens anyhow. I seent where time goes from moving at the reg’lar schedule to when it slides ‘long on grease locomotive rails. I also seent where it slows right on down, like i Richie’s Picks: THE JOURNEY OF LITTLE CHARLIE by Christopher Paul Curtis, Scholastic Press, January 2018, 256p., ISBN: 978-0-545-15666-0“Oligarch…(especially in Russia) a very rich business leader with a great deal of political influence”“Time moves different when something you ain’t ‘specting to happen goes ‘head on and happens anyhow. I seent where time goes from moving at the reg’lar schedule to when it slides ‘long on grease locomotive rails. I also seent where it slows right on down, like it’s fighting its way through a big invisible jug of molasses. Trouble is I can’t figure what it is that makes one thing move fast and the other slow.For a sample, if you was to ax me afore I seent what happened to Pap, I never would’ve thought time could slow down in the way it done. It was something so turrible that I’d-a give anything to make it go by faster, or better still, make it so I didn’t never see it at all.As ‘shamed as it make me feel and coldheart as it sound, I wish I’d-a jus’ run ‘crost Pap laying at the foot of that old maple with that big gash setting like a extra smile ‘crost his forehead.If I hadn’t been cursed to see what happened with my own eyes, it probably would’ve been nigh on useless to try and figger how my pap come to be laying there, but I’d trade being ignorant ‘bout it in a hop, skip, and a jump if that meant the sight of him wouldn’t be barging into my dreams no more.But I seent it, and unseeing something’s the same as unringing a bell; it ain’t never been done. I don’t care how much you want to get rid of the remembering, you might as well not fight it, you might as well jus’ go ahead and make yourself a holster, ‘cause that memory is yourn and you gonna be toting it ‘round for the rest of your life.” Only a small portion of Americans living in the Antebellum South benefited from slavery. The scarcity of public education in the South and an omnipresent propaganda campaign about the inferiority of blacks caused ignorant, poor, whites to support the institution of slavery, despite the fact that it was contrary to their own economic interests. If it were not for slavery, working class whites would have been able to demand higher wages, as they could in the North. In THE JOURNEY OF LITTLE CHARLIE, a coming-of-age story set in 1858, Christopher Paul Curtis creates a pair of unforgettable characters whose ignorance and exploitation represents the white people victimized by the Southern Oligarchy. A few years after the story takes place, so many of these same whites would lose their lives in the oligarchy’s last desperate gasp attempt to maintain low labor costs.Little Charlie is a huge, uneducated, twelve year-old son of sharecroppers, and Cap’n Buck is the overseer for Mr. Tanner, who owns the property that Little Charlie’s parents used to own but now rent.When a shocking bad break leads to the accidental death of Big Charlie, Little Charlie’s dad, Cap’n Buck exploits the situation by falsely claiming that he’d fronted Big Charlie a chunk of money. Little Charlie is forced to participate in a scheme to go north to Detroit with Cap’n Buck to help kidnap a family of escaped slaves. Despite his dire situation, Little Charlie’s liberation from the farm broadens his horizons and helps him overcome many of his ignorant assumptions. Through Little Charlie’s journey, we come to understand the misinformed thinking of poor white, Southerners, and how unfortunate their lot was.“The conquest of [rickets], once the most common affliction of childhood, ranks with the prevention of diarrheal diseases of infancy and diphtheria as triumphs of combined medical research and public health administration. Even as late as 1940 rickets was deemed ‘still probably the most common disease of early childhood.’”-- Harold E. Harrison, M.D., “A Tribute to the First Lady of Public Health (Martha M. Eliot) (1966)An incident in the story brings up an incredibly interesting piece of medical history: rickets. I now understand why my physician tells me to take a daily Vitamin D supplement to make up for what I don’t get nutritionally through my vegan diet.THE JOURNEY OF LITTLE CHARLIE is the most powerful story that Christopher Paul Curtis has written to date. Curtis’s award-winning stories for young people have now spanned more than two decades, a career longevity that puts him in a league with Roberto Clemente, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Wayne Gretzky. I hope there’s a Children’s Literature Legacy Award coming his way sometime soon!Richie Partington, MLISRichie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.comhttps://www.facebook.com/richiespicks/[email protected]
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  • Jordan Henrichs
    January 1, 1970
    The seemingly authentic dialect is thick and tough to slog through at times. As usual with Curtis, the period details feel spot on. For the most part, the story moves along at a swift pace although the subject matter was difficult to stomach for me.
  • Barb Middleton
    January 1, 1970
    I listened to the audiobook and didn't realize this was written in a southern dialect. No problems here understanding Little Charlie's southern accent by an excellent narrator. Little Charlie is from a poor white sharecropper family in the 1800s and at 6 feet two inches he is anything but little. The nuanced characters come alive making this tale hard to put down. Little Charlie is a flawed character that changes from his experience into a better person. The exploration of prejudice, racism, vio I listened to the audiobook and didn't realize this was written in a southern dialect. No problems here understanding Little Charlie's southern accent by an excellent narrator. Little Charlie is from a poor white sharecropper family in the 1800s and at 6 feet two inches he is anything but little. The nuanced characters come alive making this tale hard to put down. Little Charlie is a flawed character that changes from his experience into a better person. The exploration of prejudice, racism, violence, and heroic behavior guarantees spirited discussions. Twelve-year-old Charlie Bobo's father dies in a freak accident, leaving Charlie and his mother vulnerable to being taken advantage of by those that want their land. Sure enough, they become victims of the evil Capt'n Buck, an overseer of the landowner who is notorious for his violence against slaves and tenants. Charlie is conscripted by Capt'n Buck to find a family of runaway slaves in Canada claiming he has to pay off his father's debt. Capt'n Buck is a nasty piece of work whose claims at borrowing money to their father sounds fishy from the get-go. Little Charlie's mother is so frightened by Capt'n Buck that she tries to shoot him when he comes to collect the money. As Capt'n Buck and Little Charlie journey north, Little Charlie has new experiences that lead him to make moral decisions regarding following the crowd or listening to his conscience. Charlie is a flawed character. He's racist at the beginning and less so by the end and he represents a white Southern upbringing, but as his mom says, he has a good heart and the reader is left with the hope he'll grow into a decent human being. He makes mistakes along the way, refers to blacks as "darkies", and is jealous of the educated and more polished runaway black boy going to school that he's been sent to catch. Little Charlie's jealousy leads to errors in judgment and the reader is able to really get inside his head thanks to some great writing. The history of Canada and protection certain towns provided for runaway slaves is fascinating. Make sure to read or listen to the author's notes.
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  • The Reading Countess
    January 1, 1970
    Five stars. Three words. Christopher Paul Curtis. I've read aloud Bud, Not Buddy too many times to count to too many fourth and fifth graders throughout my career, and I am always amazed at the nuanced writing-the humor, the mirror held up to the social injustices suffered and the humanity he is able to paint in such broad strokes. I've also read his The Mighty Miss Malone and The Watsons Go to Birmingham, the latter being a required novel in the grade above my level at my school. Curtis is good Five stars. Three words. Christopher Paul Curtis. I've read aloud Bud, Not Buddy too many times to count to too many fourth and fifth graders throughout my career, and I am always amazed at the nuanced writing-the humor, the mirror held up to the social injustices suffered and the humanity he is able to paint in such broad strokes. I've also read his The Mighty Miss Malone and The Watsons Go to Birmingham, the latter being a required novel in the grade above my level at my school. Curtis is good. He's really good.But The Journey of Little Charlie just may well be his shining piece of literature. The southern accents take awhile to get used to and slow you down as you first get into the book, but then you're off. And what an adventure this one is. If you want to know what bravery is, read Charlie's story. I loved the tale from beginning to end, and only wish I knew what happened to Charlie's ma. Make sure to read the author's note (though, according to my youngest son, "no one reads that part of the book, Mama.")
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  • Erica
    January 1, 1970
    2.5. There’s a lot I really didn’t like about this book, mainly that it was written in southern speak, which I can’t stand and as a child, of the reading age this book is geared towards, I found impossible to get through. I know there is a point to this style and it is a learning experience for kids, but it is one that I disagree with. I think kids should have a better handle on reading before struggling through this type of writing. The book was also graphic and disturbing, which does a good jo 2.5. There’s a lot I really didn’t like about this book, mainly that it was written in southern speak, which I can’t stand and as a child, of the reading age this book is geared towards, I found impossible to get through. I know there is a point to this style and it is a learning experience for kids, but it is one that I disagree with. I think kids should have a better handle on reading before struggling through this type of writing. The book was also graphic and disturbing, which does a good job of driving home how horrible slavery was. That being said, the round about way that the main character came to understand what was happening was frustrating to say the least. He was basically a blank slate with very little personality and connection to what was happening around him. At the end he started to wisen up, but if the events of the near ending hadn’t happened, I think he would have just followed the captain and kept on going. I wouldn’t recommend this book.
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  • Czechgirl
    January 1, 1970
    This was an easy read as far as interest level goes. This story drew me in immediately. However, the content was not as easy to read. It tells the true horror of slave-catching and the dangers that lurk with them. It brought in some history I was not quite aware of, but makes sense. If you were an escaped slaves, the northern states didn't necessarily support your freedom. You had to carry documents showing you were a freed slave, which made the escape to Canada so much more important to escaped This was an easy read as far as interest level goes. This story drew me in immediately. However, the content was not as easy to read. It tells the true horror of slave-catching and the dangers that lurk with them. It brought in some history I was not quite aware of, but makes sense. If you were an escaped slaves, the northern states didn't necessarily support your freedom. You had to carry documents showing you were a freed slave, which made the escape to Canada so much more important to escaped slave. I was not aware of the laws in Canada protecting escaped slaves. Good for Canada. The dialect in the story shows Curtis' writing talent, but is hard to read at times. Very thick dialect.
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  • Janice
    January 1, 1970
    Wonderful audio rendition of Curtis's newest historical fiction. I reread this in order to facilitate a 5th grade Newbery discussion group. The cruelty of slavery and slave catchers is heavy stuff for 10-year-olds, but the kids were fascinated and appalled. Curtis's dialect dialog was as challenging as the subject matter, but they persevered and liked it. I can't wait to see how the second group of kids to read it will respond.
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  • Katie Fitzgerald
    January 1, 1970
    I have always said I would gladly read anything by Christopher Paul Curtis, but the dialect in this book is just too much of a stumbling block for me and I decided to abandon the ARC after the first chapter. Reading dialect feels very tedious to me, and trying to read it aloud just made me sound foolish. I will consider revisiting the story as an audiobook in the future.
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  • Dan
    January 1, 1970
    A wonderful novel. Highly recommended if you enjoy historical fiction. I recommend the audiobook because of the southern dialect. This will probably win some awards. Thanks for the recommendation Kirsten!
  • Lorianna
    January 1, 1970
    Christopher Paul Curtis continues his streak of Lori loving his books. I haven’t yet met one I didn’t like.
  • Brandy Painter
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsThis book is about a share cropper's son who must travel with a slave catcher to Michigan in order to pay of a debt his father incurred before his tragic death. Charlie doesn't like the overseer he is indebted to and finds everything about their journey distasteful. I enjoyed this mostly because it is a glimpse into a part of this country's history we don't see much in children's books. There are many books that cover slavery, but not from the point of view of slave catchers. I was sort 3.5 starsThis book is about a share cropper's son who must travel with a slave catcher to Michigan in order to pay of a debt his father incurred before his tragic death. Charlie doesn't like the overseer he is indebted to and finds everything about their journey distasteful. I enjoyed this mostly because it is a glimpse into a part of this country's history we don't see much in children's books. There are many books that cover slavery, but not from the point of view of slave catchers. I was sort of disappointed because I went in with the expectation that this was more about a friendship between Charlie and the son of the family he is being forced to retrieve. This was not the book's fault, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more character development all around.
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  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    Christopher Paul Curtis is among the best of the best.. I wonder if kids will take to the 'slang' or language that is used... but once you get going in the story it doesn't matter.. another look into the cruelty and journey of slavery..
  • Kari
    January 1, 1970
    I struggle to evaluate books like this . . . it was of course excellent but I don’t know how I would be able to get a kid to read it. And I can’t really see a class using it because of the dialect.
  • Abby Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    I mean, Christopher Paul Curtis! Historical (just before Civil War) fiction! You can't really go wrong.
  • Barbara
    January 1, 1970
    Good luck never seems to be on the side of Little Charlie Bobo. After his father dies in a freak accident in the South Carolina woods, slave catcher Cap'n Buck comes calling with claims that the man owed him some money. The twelve-year-old and his mother have practically nothing, and his family has barely been squeaking by until the next harvest. Although they try to flee, Cap'n Buck outsmarts them, and Charlie is on his way to Detroit and then, later, to Canada, in order to bring back some thie Good luck never seems to be on the side of Little Charlie Bobo. After his father dies in a freak accident in the South Carolina woods, slave catcher Cap'n Buck comes calling with claims that the man owed him some money. The twelve-year-old and his mother have practically nothing, and his family has barely been squeaking by until the next harvest. Although they try to flee, Cap'n Buck outsmarts them, and Charlie is on his way to Detroit and then, later, to Canada, in order to bring back some thieves who allegedly stole from the Tanners. But once Charlie realizes that they're after a man, a woman, and their son and after he meets the son, he has second and third thoughts about his involvement. There's not a single misstep in this story about the Fugitive Slave Act and some of the evil practices it inspired as free African American and African Canadian men, women and children were often kidnapped and taken down South. I was riveted and deeply involved in the story from start to finish. I never had a single moment of pity of Cap'n Buck and knew early on just what he was capable of doing. While, like other reviewers, I was surprised at first that Christopher Paul Curtis was telling the story from the perspective of a poor white boy, ultimately it works well as it allows readers to glimpse his thought processes and changes in attitude over the course of his journey. While the use of dialect may be offputting to some readers, it didn't slow me down, and as I read, I fell into the rhythm of the writing and speaking easily. I've enjoyed every story this talented man has written, and this one was yet another excellent tale that tugs at readers' hearts and makes them question what they might have done in certain situations. The Author's Note actually ruminates on how rarely many of us act on those better instincts, often leaving those actions to others. Read this one alongside Elijah of Buxton and The Madman of Piney Woods and glory in the deft storytelling skills of this talented man. As a fan and a writer and writing teacher, I loved reading his notes on how stories come to him and how he eschews outlines before writing.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    I've always loved The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963. It's a book that'll make you feel a lot of feelings: I laughed, I cried, I was outraged, and ashamed. I felt all those feelings in this Christopher Paul Curtis book as well, only zoom in and magnify the feelings of shame and outrage. This book will be a hard read aloud for kids, but it is one of the best books I've read this year, period. It's like Huckleberry Finn.Charlies Bobo's family are poor sharecroppers with no education. Charlie and I've always loved The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963. It's a book that'll make you feel a lot of feelings: I laughed, I cried, I was outraged, and ashamed. I felt all those feelings in this Christopher Paul Curtis book as well, only zoom in and magnify the feelings of shame and outrage. This book will be a hard read aloud for kids, but it is one of the best books I've read this year, period. It's like Huckleberry Finn.Charlies Bobo's family are poor sharecroppers with no education. Charlie and his father are Paul Bunyan- sized, which makes Charlie seem older than his twelve years. The family's house is on the Tanner estate; the Tanner's are slave owners and their overseer, Cap'n Buck, is known for his sadism. When Charlie's father has to work with Cap'n Buck to earn money for food, what he witnesses there keeps him awake at night. But when Charlie's father is killed in a freak accident Charlie is forced to help Cap'n Buck to repay a debt. The Cap'n and Charlie head to Detroit to catch some "thieves" that stole three thousand dollars from the Tanner's. Once in Detroit it's obvious that they're there to catch three runaway slaves. From there the story is harrowing. I would love to read a history of Canada during the slave years in America. Canada is so cool.The main characters in this story are white. They are multi-faceted, nuanced people who don't always make the decisions you assume they are going to make. Charlie is frustratingly naive. His mother is a ditz. But Cap'n Buck is always evil, even when you see some softer sides; all those soft edges just make him more depraved. Rufus Waylin from Octavia Butler's Kindred stands as my all-time most hated bad guy, but I can see Cap'n Buck rivaling him for that top spot.
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  • Laura Gardner
    January 1, 1970
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for THE JOURNEY OF LITTLE CHARLIE by the incomparable @christopherpaulcurtis; this has been on my TBR for a while, but it is on the #nationalbookaward2018 longlist so I bumped it up!.〰〰If you haven’t read about Charlie Bono’s journey yet, make time to do so. I was sucked into the world of runaway slaves and poor sharecroppers and had to finish this in two quick sittings. Really I was racing to the conclusion to see if Charlie would act according to his upbringing as a poor, uneducated Sout ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for THE JOURNEY OF LITTLE CHARLIE by the incomparable @christopherpaulcurtis; this has been on my TBR for a while, but it is on the #nationalbookaward2018 longlist so I bumped it up!.〰️〰️If you haven’t read about Charlie Bono’s journey yet, make time to do so. I was sucked into the world of runaway slaves and poor sharecroppers and had to finish this in two quick sittings. Really I was racing to the conclusion to see if Charlie would act according to his upbringing as a poor, uneducated Southern white boy in the 1800s or be inspired to do something...different. This is an unflinching look at the practice of going after runaway slaves in the north. Highly recommended for all elementary and middle school libraries, grades 4+. I adjusted to the Southern dialect within the first chapter and predict students will, too. .〰️〰️The author’s note at the end explains Curtis’s process in writing the book and why he chose to make a young white boy the protagonist. Curtis writes “after getting to know Little Charlie, I was convinced hat even though he was raised awash in racism, ignorance, and all-encompassing poverty...he was capable of seeing the lie of what he’d been taught.” Curtis also includes background information on the community of Buxton in Canada. This is part of the Buxton Chronicles, but readers don’t need to read the first two books to enjoy CHARLIE. .〰️〰️#bookstagram #book #reading #bibliophile #bookworm #bookaholic #booknerd #bookgram #librarian #librariansfollowlibrarians #librariansofinstagram #booklove #booktography #bookstagramfeature #bookish #bookaddict #booknerdigans #booknerd #ilovereading #instabook #futurereadylibs #ISTElibs #TLChat #mgbooks @nationalbookfoundation
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  • Heidi
    January 1, 1970
    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 nothi 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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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    A white sharecropper's son, Little Charlie Bobo, finds himself caught on a mission to pay a debt to the plantation owner on whose land his family farms. He's already known as a smart and sensitive boy through earlier scenes, so the tension mounts as Charlie becomes more and more entangled in the overseer, Cap'n Jack's scheme to catch a family of escaped slaves. The story deepens as Charlie, who tells the story, reveals more and more how much he hates what is happening, but feels trapped. Christ A white sharecropper's son, Little Charlie Bobo, finds himself caught on a mission to pay a debt to the plantation owner on whose land his family farms. He's already known as a smart and sensitive boy through earlier scenes, so the tension mounts as Charlie becomes more and more entangled in the overseer, Cap'n Jack's scheme to catch a family of escaped slaves. The story deepens as Charlie, who tells the story, reveals more and more how much he hates what is happening, but feels trapped. Christopher Paul Curtis tells still another story of slaves escaped and free and their passion to keep their children free. The story, told during a two-month period in 1858, is based on a true story about the time of the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 and involves those across the border in Canada who come to any black person's aid when fleeing. It's told in the southern dialect of the time and uses some offensive words like 'darkie', though authentic. Though a book full of tense scenes, Curtis knows how also to give some relief. There are some endearing and humorous times, too. Charlie is a character that will be remembered, and students can benefit from good conversations about the story.
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