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Bud, Not Buddy

by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Book Club Novel Guide outlines a complete theme-based unit with Book Club lesson plans focusing on Bud, Not Buddy.

Buy the Novel Buy the Book Club Novel Guide

Book Club: A Literature-Based Curriculum discusses Bud, Not Buddy within a themed multi-book unit along with three other stories Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry, Monkey Island by Paula Fox, and Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.


Below you will find a synopsis, further reading materials, discussion topics, and reviews that you might find useful during your teaching of Bud, Not Buddy.

A Synopsis

Bud, whose mother died four years ago when he was six, has lived in the Home and in foster homes since her death. As the novel opens, Bud learns that he will be moving to a new foster home, a family with a twelve-year-old son. Bud packs his suitcase, reviewing his most precious belongings from his mother: fliers advertising Herman E. Calloway and his various bands. Instead of being excited about the foster home, Bud suspects that he will be tormented by the older boy—and he is right. When he defends himself, Bud is locked in the shed for the night with the promise of being returned to the Home. After an attack by hornets, he breaks out of the shed and decides to run away. The remainder of the novel chronicles his journey from Flint to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in search of the man Bud believes is his father: Herman E. Calloway. He experiences life in a Hooverville, as well as his first kiss; he tries unsuccessfully to find his favorite librarian; and he hitches a ride to Grand Rapids with Lefty Lewis (a character based on the author’s grandfather). When he finally meets his supposed father, he is surprised by the man’s age and his gruff demeanor. After spending a few days in Grand Calloway Station, the truth is revealed that Herman Calloway is his grandfather. Bud’s mother had run away from Calloway’s home as a teenager.

Throughout the novel, readers are introduced to important events of the Great Depression, including the forming of the Pullman porters union, the Hoovervilles near railways, the laws discriminating against African Americans, and the prejudice common in many places.

Further Reading and Links

The following sites can be used to support and enrich the Book Club unit for Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis.

About the Author and the Novel

  • Nobody but Curtis — This is the official website for the author of Bud, Not Buddy. It offers a biography, a list of his books, and other resources.
  • Video Interview — Watch an interview with Christopher Paul Curtis presented by Reading Rockets. The site also offers a short biography and a bibliography of his children's book.
  • Christopher Paul Curtis — Random House Kids provides this page which includes biographical and career information as well as a message from Curtis that visitors can watch.
  • The New York Times Review — Read a review of Curtis's novel "Bud, Not Buddy" published in the newspaper in 1999.
  • Common Sense — This review of the book gives it 4 out of 5 stars. You can read details and user reviews about the book.

Related Topics

Related Reading

Big Theme Questions

What is family? What are the special qualities that shape a family?

What is home? What characteristics make a place feel like home?

How do people cope with loss? What are some positive ways to cope with loss?

Is it possible to find something that you didn’t know you had lost? If so, describe some examples from literature or real life. How does it feel to discover something that’s unexpected but very valuable?

How is life like a journey? Why are journeys important?

Outline of Lesson Plan | Discussion Topics | Writing Prompts

The following section can be used to get discussions started in your classroom. It is based on the Lesson Plan within the Book Club Novel Guide for Bud, Not Buddy. The Lesson Plan includes blackline masters for the students that support the writing prompts. The writing prompts provided are meant as suggestions only. As students become more comfortable with the Book Club format, they will certainly have ideas and questions that go beyond the prompts. Consider giving students “free choice” as a log option. Book Club Reading Logs help students respond to literature and organize ideas as they participate in Book Club.


Chapter 1 | Language Conventions: Introduction to Book Club

  • Notice the author’s unique style of writing. Discuss some things that make the style unique.
  • What do you like about the way the book starts? What don’t you like? Why?
  • Bud says that his eyes don’t cry anymore. Why do you think his eyes don’t cry?
  • Why do you think Bud’s mom saved the flyers that Bud keeps in his suitcase?

Chapter 2 | Literary Elements: Point of View

  • How would the chapter change if it were told from Toddy’s point of view? From Mrs. Amos’s?
  • What does Mrs. Amos mean when she says, “I do not have time to put up with the foolishness of those members of our race who do not want to be uplifted”?
  • What do the allusions add to the book?
  • Why do you think Bud has devised a set of rules to live by?

Chapters 3–4 | Literary Elements: Imagery and Figurative Language

  • What are some of the most vivid, interesting, funny, or sad descriptions in the book so far? Why do these descriptions stand out to you? Begin a Fabulous Phrases and Delightful Descriptions list. Continue to add descriptions to the list as you read Bud, Not Buddy.
  • Why is the suitcase so important to Bud? If you were Bud, what items would you put in your suitcase? Why?
  • Think about a time when you were in a scary place. What do you remember about the place and the experience?
  • Review the description of the shed in Chapter 3. What images stand out to you?

Chapters 5–6 | Comprehension: Summarizing and Sequencing

  • Draw a flowchart of the important events that have happened in the book so far.
  • Why did Bud’s mother name him Bud? What do you think this means about Bud and his future?
  • In Chapter 5, Bud and his mother discuss doors opening and closing. How does this metaphor relate to Bud?
  • How does Bud use his list of rules to help him through difficult situations? Continue to keep a list of Bud’s rules.

Chapter 7 | Language Conventions: Fluency

  • At the end of the chapter, Bud talks about a door closing and one opening. What do you think he means?
  • Continue summarizing and sequencing events.
  • Update your list of Fabulous Phrases and Delightful Descriptions.

Chapter 8 | Comprehension: Foreshadowing and Predicting

  • What has Bud learned about families?
  • Why do you think Deza’s mom describes children who are alone as “dust in the wind”?
  • Is Bud lost? Why or why not?
  • Do you think the song “Shenandoah” is related to Bud’s life? Explain.

Chapters 9–10 | Literary Elements: Theme

  • Add to your list of motifs. Which images appear more than once in this chapter? Have you seen these images before? Where?
  • What are some possible themes of the book? How did you arrive at these themes?
  • Review your chart of predictions, adjusting previous predictions and listing new ones.
  • Are you surprised by Bud's decision to walk to Grand Rapids? Do you think he will make it?
  • How is Bud feeling as he walks alone in the dark? How would you feel if you were in his place? Would you make the journey?
  • Make a prediction about the man Bud calls "the vampire." Is he a good man who is going to help Bud, or a person who could hurt Bud? Explain your reasoning.
  • Continue summarizing and sequencing.

Chapter 11 | Comprehension: Character Analysis

  • Discuss the characters in the book so far. Use quotations and characters from this story and others to fill in a chart with examples of direct and indirect characterization and round and flat characters.
  • Write a character analysis of Bud. Make sure you describe not only his character but also how he has changed, the important events and symbols in his life, and the things you would expect him to do. If you think Bud shares any similarities with other characters in the story, include this in your analysis. Also, explain briefly how Curtis develops Bud’s character.
  • Update your prediction chart, adjusting previous predictions and making new ones.

Chapter 12 | Literary Elements: Setting

  • Describe the setting of the story, including the physical, geographical, social, and political elements. Explain how the setting helps make the story believable.
  • Discuss the challenges Bud faces in the story. How does the setting add to these challenges?
  • Review your list of motifs from Lesson 6. Identify motifs that are still recurring and add new recurring images to the list.
  • Continue working on your prediction and allusions charts.

Chapters 13–14 | Language Conventions: Reading Log Entries

  • Do you think that Herman Calloway is really Bud’s father? List reasons that he might be and reasons that he might not be.
  • What does “this is your little red wagon, you pull it if you want” mean?
  • Why do you think Bud began to cry?
  • There are many references to seeds being planted or sprouted in the book. What do you think is the significance of these references?

Chapters 15–16 | Comprehension: Questioning and Clarifying

  • While reading, stop periodically to jot down questions about the text. When you encounter the answer to the question, stop and record it. When you have finished reading, review any unanswered questions to see if the text has answered them yet.
  • Identify a confusing element from this reading assignment or a previous one. Explain how you clarified the confusion.
  • Continue summarizing and sequencing.
  • What are some of the most interesting details of the room in which Bud sleeps? How does he feel when he is in the room?
  • Why does Bud like his new nickname so much? How does it make him feel?
  • Why do you think the band members welcome Bud so warmly? Why might they be drawn to Bud?

Chapters 17–18 | Composition: Compare and Contrast

  • In a full-length essay, compare and contrast an element from Bud, Not Buddy with one from Because of Winn-Dixie or another novel.
  • How does Bud feel when he hears the band play? What words and phrases does he use to describe the music?
  • Talk about setting. Why was life difficult for African-American musicians at the time this story takes place?
  • Were you surprised by events at the end of Chapter 18? Why, or why not?

Chapter 19 | Response to Literature: Analyze the Story’s Ending

  • What did Bud mean when he said that he was carrying his momma inside him?
  • What do you think of Herman Calloway’s reaction to the news of his daughter’s death?
  • What do you learn about Bud’s character from his actions and reactions in this final chapter?
  • Does the ending of the story seem believable? Why or why not?

Afterword | Composition: Big Theme Questions

  • Answer one of the big theme questions in an essay. Be sure to support your ideas with examples from the text.
  • Why do you think Christopher Paul Curtis included an Afterword? Do you think the information in the Afterword adds to your understanding of the characters and events in the novel? Why, or why not?
  • According to Curtis, why is it important to talk to older relatives and friends and "keep their stories alive"? Do you agree with Curtis?