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Even ardent fans of Curtis's Newbery winner, Bud, Not Buddy, may not remember Deza Malone, who shares dishwashing duties with Bud Caldwell during his brief stay at a Hooverville in Flint, Mich. Responding to readers' pleas that he write a book with a female main character, Curtis traces the path that led Deza's family to homelessness. It's 1936 in Gary, Ind., and the Great Depression has put 12-year-old Deza's father out of work. After a near-death experience trying to catch fish for dinner, Roscoe Malone leaves for Flint, hoping he'll find work. But Deza's mother loses her job shortly after, putting all the Malones out on the street. As in his previous books, Curtis threads important bits of African-American history throughout the narrative, using the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling fight to expose the racism prevalent even among people like the librarian who tells Deza that Louis is "such a credit to your race." Though the resolution of the family's crisis is perhaps far-fetched, some readers will feel they are due a bit of happiness; others will be struck by how little has changed in 75 years for the nation's have-nots. Ages 10-14. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Deza Malone, 12, has a couple of big things going for her. She comes from a strong family, and she is smart as a whip. But there is plenty of bad to go along with the good. It's 1936 and her dad can't find work; her brother, Jimmie, he of the beautiful singing voice, isn't growing; and her teeth, full of cavities, require treatment of cotton soaked with camphor. Can things get worse? Certainly. Her father disappears and her mother moves the family from Gary to Flint, which lands the trio in a Hooverville shack. Then Jimmie takes off to sing. Curtis tries to do too much here. Consequently, just when readers are getting invested, the story changes course or important plot points are dropped. Deza is devastated when she overhears her father say her rotting teeth make him avert his head, but her suffering is forgotten until, at the conclusion, she goes to a dentist. On the plus side, Deza is a snappy character that will grab readers, and Curtis' portrayal of a family's love for each other feels real and true. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Newbery-winner Curtis has a huge following. Readers will be enticed by his return to the Depression-era setting of Bud, Not Buddy (1999) and his reintroduction of Deza, one of the characters from that book.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2010 Booklist
School Library Journal
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Gr 4-7-In 1936 Gary, IN, 12-year-old Deza Malone is an outstanding student and beloved daughter in an African American family challenged by economic hardship. Her mother's job as a domestic allows them to just get by, but leaves them unable to address Deza's rotting teeth and older brother Jimmie's stunted growth. When her father seeks work in Michigan and fails to keep in touch with them, Mother packs them up to go and find him. Their journey takes them to a Hooverville camp where Jimmie's beautiful singing voice is discovered by an itinerant musician who convinces him to strike out on his own. Mother and Deza try to make a life for themselves in Flint but are discouraged by poverty and discrimination and their inability to find Father. When Deza hears that Jimmie is making it big in Detroit, she sets out to find him, starting a chain of events that lead to a hopeful yet heartbreaking conclusion. The strength of this companion to Bud, Not Buddy (Delacorte, 1999) is its vivid characterization and clear sense of place and time. Deza is an appealing, indomitable heroine whose narrative voice reflects both wit and pathos. Period details are skillfully woven into the story with the Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling fight playing an important role in underscoring the sense of defeat for African Americans as they struggle with the Depression. Careful readers may be mystified by the discrepancies between Buddy's account of meeting Deza and Deza's, and they might wish for a more comforting resolution, but Curtis does not sugarcoat reality and focuses instead on the resilience of a memorable character. An absorbing read.-Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.