Children’s Book Reviews
Children's Book Reviews: The Journey of Little Charlie
Publish August 1, 2018
There’s no question that Newbery Medal winner Christopher Paul Curtis is a master storyteller, and in The Journey of Little Charlie, he memorably relates the saga of a poor, white sharecropper’s son from South Carolina in 1858. When Charlie Bobo’s father dies suddenly, the 12-year-old is forced to settle unpaid family debts by taking a job with Cap’n Buck, the malicious plantation boss. Charlie is initially naïve about the mission he is on to get back $4,000 worth of stolen property, but he slowly realizes that he is aiding a brutal slave catcher. Little Charlie’s harrowing physical journey with Cap’n Buck takes him from Possum Moan to Detroit to Buxton, Ontario. He also travels far emotionally, moving from a starting place of uneducated prejudice, to showing empathy for runaway slaves, and ultimately, to having the courage to denounce evil and save lives.
Told in Southern dialect, the first-person narration delivers an immersive reading experience that is by turns heartbreaking and hopeful, with a restorative dose of humour: “Good sense stopped me from saying it, but [Cap’n Buck] smelt worst than something warm that dropped out the south end of a sick northbound goat.” Curtis bears witness to the horrendous racism and abuse of the time, and has crafted an unassuming, inconspicuous hero whose bravery in challenging and confronting injustice is what we should all aspire to.
Linda Ludke is a librarian at London Public Library. Her reviews have appeared in Quill and Quire, School Library Journal and CM: Canadian Review of Materials. When she’s not reading and writing she also loves searching for vintage treasures.
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