Do you love Bud, Not Buddy, but are looking for more? If so, this blog post is definitely for you.
Life is too short to read horrible books. That’s a motto I try to stick to with any books I choose for my classroom and for any I read during my free time. It can be hard to choose various read-aloud novels, book club books, and units that a variety of students will enjoy. Every child is different with diverse interests and hobbies. It can be a challenge finding just the right book.
During the summer, I love to take the time to read for myself and for my classroom. My favorite pleasure books are Elin Hilderbrand and any book from Reese Witherspoon’s book club list. If I start a book and immediately don’t connect with it, I put it down…because life is too short to read horrible books, of course.
As far as reading for the classroom during the summer, I pick out books I’m thinking about teaching as units or for read-aloud novels. I am so blessed that my school allows me the autonomy to choose the novel units for my classes. My most recent discovery, Mighty Miss Malone, by Christopher Paul Curtis, was a book I couldn’t put down.
I was drawn to it because Christopher Paul Curtis, the author of Bud, Not Buddy wrote it. My mother, the elementary librarian, recommended Mighty Miss Malone to me as I was thinking of teaching Bud, Not Buddy to my sixth graders, but needed a book with a female protagonist. We had recently read two books with male main characters, and I wanted to have a female as the protagonist to connect with my girl students.
When I read Mighty Miss Malone and saw how Curtis also connected The Great Depression and WW2, I was sold. As a sixth-grade social studies teacher, as well, I was excited to connect it to my history class, which would be learning about those two topics at the same time.
I highly recommend Mighty Miss Malone, by Christopher Paul Curtis for any fourth to the seventh-grade classroom. If teaching fourth grade, I recommend it as a read-aloud.
Mighty Miss Malone is about a young girl, Deza, who is the genius of her family. Both of her parents are blue-collar workers, but her father was recently laid off during the Great Depression. Her older brother, Jimmie, is a wonderful singer, but is short in size and not as bright as Deza.
The novel takes the reader on a journey of Deza’s family moving from Gary, Indiana to Flint, Michigan to find work. The novel explores how the Great Depression affected individuals and towns. It explores how racism and segregation made the Great Depression even harder for Black families. It deeply explores the poverty of the Great Depression, with how rotten Deza’s teeth are, how the family must pick bugs out of their oatmeal, and how they have to live in a shantytown as well as ride the rails.
If you are looking for a book that is a true historical fictional novel, Mighty Miss Malone is it. It weaves real-life events into the story, such as the famous boxing match between Black-American boxer Joe Louis Barrow and the German boxer, Max Schmeling. Curtis thoughtfully and carefully explains how Barrow’s boxing match loss deeply affected Americans, especially as they were about to enter WW2.
The reader will also be connected to Deza, the female protagonist, who is a young girl with phenomenal writing talent. Though often oblivious to the depths of her family’s poverty, she slowly becomes enlightened on their journey to Michigan. She also slowly understands and experiences racism more and more as she enters into a de-segregated school.
Mighty Miss Malone is also a story of how a father’s presence deeply affects a family and of the deep love between Deza’s parents. It tells of how Jimmie, Deza’s brother, although not really given much credit at the beginning of the book, slowly becomes a pivotal character.
Curtis takes such heavy topics, both historically and in relation to the characters, and still makes it appropriate for upper elementary to younger middle schoolers.
He has added elements of light-heartedness, comical moments, and innocence as the story is told from Deza’s point of view. Yet, there is still enough tragedy and depth that it makes this novel so moving.
All of my students loved this book. Mighty Miss Malone spurred on so many discussion points that connected right back to history and related to current events.
It was hard to put this book down. I enjoyed this book even just as an adult and I believe I would have loved it, even if I weren’t a teacher. Mighty Miss Malone, a historical fictional novel, written by Christopher Paul Curtis, is the perfect addition to any 4th-7th grade classroom.
For more information and for a wealth of resources, please visit Christopher Paul Curtis’ Resource Page.