All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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A video interview with

Christopher Paul Curtis

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Christopher Paul Curtis was born in Flint, Michigan in 1953. Growing up in an all-black neighborhood, the only white people he ever saw were the teachers at his school. From kindergarten through eighth grade, Curtis was a straight-A student who thought he wanted to become a doctor like his father. But when he got to high school, Curtis lost interest in academics.

After high school graduation, Curtis took a well-paying job at the local automobile factory. At first he bought a new car and enjoyed the perks of making high wages. But soon Curtis grew tired of the strenuous and monotonous work. While installing heavy car doors on the assembly line, he and his partner developed a system that enabled each of them to rest for 30 minutes out of every hour. During these breaks from the assembly line, Curtis began to write.

After 13 long years at the factory, Curtis finally decided to take a year off to write a novel. This first novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963, won both a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Honor. Curtis' second novel, Bud, Not Buddy, received even higher praise. It won the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award. Curtis' overnight success as an author allowed him to leave manual labor behind and dedicate himself full-time to writing.

Today Christopher Paul Curtis lives with his wife and two children in Windsor, Canada. His most recent book, Elijah of Buxton, was published in August 2007.

Selected Books

from Christopher Paul Curtis

Bucking the Sarge

Age Level: 9-12

Fifteen-year-old Luther's mother, The Sarge, rules an empire of halfway houses and slums. Luther himself is a much more ordinary guy, though he is caught between being a typical teen and being the Sarge's son. Luther's peculiar problems are resolved in a way that is sure to satisfy readers.

Buy Bucking the Sarge

Bud, Not Buddy

Age Level: 9-12

Young Bud runs away from the latest and worst foster home in search of his father. Though he doesn't find his father, Bud (not Buddy) does find family, music, and more on his long trek across Michigan during the Depression. In this Newbery-winning novel, both humor and Bud's naive voice make difficult issues accessible to younger readers.

Buy Bud, Not Buddy

Elijah of Buxton

Age Level: 9-12

Eleven-year-old Elijah was born in Buxton, a Canadian settlement that was the final stop on the Underground Railroad. The free child of slaves, Elijah reveals his growing awareness of the horrors of slavery on his journey to young adulthood. Vivid characters and a strong sense of place create both humor and horror in this moving novel.

Buy Elijah of Buxton

Mr. Chickee's Funny Money

Age Level: 9-12

Could it be real? A quadrillion dollar bill? In this funny, fast-paced tall tale, nine-year-old Steven, helper and friend of his blind neighbor, Mr. Chickee, solves the mystery of this strange money.

Buy Mr. Chickee's Funny Money

Mr. Chickee's Messy Mission

Age Level: 9-12

The Flint Future Detectives are back for another wacky adventure in which the dog owned by Steven's friend, Russell (first introduced in Mr. Chickee's Funny Money) inadvertently launches an out-of-this-world series of events. Readers will see the satire in this improbable, funny, and fast-reading novel.

Buy Mr. Chickee's Messy Mission

The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963

Age Level: 9-12

Fourth-grader Kenny goes with his older brother Byron and his parents on a road trip from Flint, Michigan to the South, where Byron will be spending the summer with his grandparents, away from the temptations of city life. Curtis mixes humor with the volatility of the South in the summer of 1963.

Buy The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963

The Journey of Little Charlie

Age Level: 9-12

Twelve-year-old Charlie is down on his luck: His sharecropper father just died and Cap'n Buck has come to collect a debt. Fearing for his life, Charlie strikes a deal with Cap'n Buck and agrees to track down some folks accused of stealing. It's not too bad of a bargain until he comes face-to-face with the fugitives and discovers their true identities. Torn between his guilty conscience and his survival instinct, Charlie needs to figure out his next move - and soon.

Buy The Journey of Little Charlie

The Mighty Miss Malone

Age Level: 9-12

Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But it's 1936 and the Great Depression has hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother, Jimmie, go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie's beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father. The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.

Buy The Mighty Miss Malone