The Mighty Miss Malone
The Mighty Miss Malone

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Annotation: Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, but the Great Depression challenges her skills as she and her family fight to survive.
Catalog Number: #70127
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: Random House
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition Date: 2013
Pages: 307 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-440-42214-0 Perma-Bound: 0-605-60694-3
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-440-42214-3 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-60694-4
Dewey: Fic
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
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.
Horn Book
The Great Depression has hit the desperately poor Malone family hard, and twelve-year-old Deza Malone's father must leave Indiana to search for work in Flint, Michigan. When the family doesn't hear from him, they go searching. As full of good cheer as Deza (introduced in Bud, Not Buddy) is, this angry novel is unflinching in its portrayal of poverty.
Publishers Weekly
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.)

School Library Journal
Gr 4&11;7&12; 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.&12; Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Deza Malone had a brief appearance in Curtis' multiple–award-winning novel, Bud, Not Buddy (Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Author Award, 2000). Now, she is the dynamic and engaging heroine of her own story. Deza takes great pride in being the best student in school and the champion of her musically gifted but challenged older brother. Although the Malones are barely surviving the Depression in Gary, Ind., Deza has a strong sense of self and hope for a better life. As she writes in her school essay, "We are the only family in the world, in my ken, that has a motto of our own! That motto is ‘We are a family on a journey to a place called Wonderful.' I can't wait until we get there!" Despite severe economic and racial restrictions, the strength of their familial bond remains strong, but even that connection is sorely tested when Mr. Malone returns to his hometown of Flint, Mich., seeking work. Deza, her brother Jimmie and their mother set out to find him as their situation becomes dire. With his distinctive style of storytelling that seamlessly presents the hardships and finds the humor in tough circumstances, Curtis forges the link between characters and readers. The fluidity of the writing, the strong sense of place and time combined with well-drawn characters will captivate and delight. Deza is one great heroine in her own right, a fitting literary companion to Bud Caldwell. (Historical fiction. 9-12)
Word Count: 67,119
Reading Level: 4.7
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.7 / points: 10.0 / quiz: 148755 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.6 / points:17.0 / quiz:Q56888
Lexile: 750L
Guided Reading Level: U
Fountas & Pinnell: U
Chapter One

Journey to Wonderful

“Once upon a time . . .”

If I could get away with it, that’s how I’d begin every essay I write.

Those are the four best words to use when you start telling about yourself because anything that begins that way always, always finishes with another four words, “. . . they lived happily everafter.”

And that’s a good ending for any story.

I shut my dictionary and thesaurus and went back over my essay for the last time.

The best teacher in the world, Mrs. Karen Needham, had given us a assignment to write about our families. I knew, just like always, she was going to love mine. She’d only asked for two pages but this was our last essay for the year, so I wrote six.

Once upon a time . . . in Gary, Indiana, lived a family of three very special, very happy and uniquely talented people. I am the fourth member of that family and much too modest to include myself in such a grandiose description of their exalted number. But many people say I am of the same ilk and for that I remain internally grateful.

My mother, Mrs. Margaret “Peggy” Sutphen Malone, was born here in Gary, Indiana. She is willowy and radiant and spell-blindingly beautiful. She is also very intelligent. She has a great job cleaning for the Carsdale family. Yes, that Carsdale family! The family whose patriarch is the president of the Gary Citizens’ Bank.

Her most endearing trait is that she is the glue holding this family together.

“Deza?”

I jumped and my pencil flew out of my hand.

When I’m writing or reading a book, everything else around me disappears. Father says it’s because I’ve settled into what I’m doing, the same way my brother Jimmie does when he’s singing.

“Jimmie! I told you not to sneak up on me like that when I’m writing!”

He handed me the pencil. “I couldn’t help it, sis, you were so far gone. What’re you writing?”

“My last essay for Mrs. Needham.”

“You know, a lot of people are saying her not coming back to teach is the best thing that ever happened at Lincoln Woods School.”

“James Malone, if I ever give one-half a hoot what a lot of people are saying, you have my permission to slap me silly. Mrs. Needham is the best teacher in the world. Now, if you don’t mind. I never bother you when you’re singing, don’t bother me when I’m writing.”

“But lots of people love listening to me sing, Deza, seems to me like only you, that little pest Clarice Anne Johnson and Mrs. Needham like reading what you write.”

Jimmie is one of those people who can say something that might sound mean at first, but when he smiles and makes his eyebrows jump up and down you can’t help smiling. He gets this deep, deep dimple in his right cheek and you end up laughing right along with him.

My dearest friend, Clarice Anne Johnson, has a horrible and completely un-understandable crush on Jimmie. She says she bets you could pour cornflakes in his dimple and eat them out with a spoon.

I’m hoping Clarice’s taste in boys improves as she gets older.

“Jimmie, please.”

“Sorry, sis. I’m heading out, can I do anything for you before I split?”

“No, thanks. Just make sure you’re back for supper.”

I looked at Mrs. Needham’s instructions again. “What is the most annoying trait of some of your family members?”

That was easy to come up with for Father and Jimmie, but I couldn’t think of a single annoying trait for Mother. I wrote:

Mother’s pet peeve is that she hates the way a lot of people are mean to Jimmie for no reason.

Her dreams are to see Father get a job where he doesn’t always get laid off, for Jimmie to start growing again and be happy and to watch me graduate from college and be a teacher.

My father, Mr. Roscoe Malone, was born in a village in Michigan called Flint, which is geologically located 250 miles northeast of Gary. For some reason that none of us can understand he is very proud of this. He is tall and strikingly handsome, he’s also intelligent and well-read.

He toils and labors mostly for the Company doing work in a horribly hot furnace and sometimes being a janitor.

His most annoying trait is the way he uses alliteration every chance he has.

I looked up from my paper. That is so true, but I wondered for a minute if I should put it in the essay. It isn’t like he can help himself.

He always calls me his Darling Daughter Deza, and I’m supposed to answer that he is my Dearest Delightful Daddy. He calls Jimmie the Genuine, Gentle Jumpin’ Giant, and Jimmie’s supposed to call him his Fine Friendly Father Figure. Father also calls Mother the Marvelous Mammalian Matriarch, but she says she won’t respond because she refuses to play silly word games with such a “hardheaded husband who hasn’t heard how horrible he is.”

Mother told me, “Such nonsense is in the blood of the Malones and you should be happy that so far it looks like you haven’t inherited any of it.”

She says Jimmie is a different story.

I tapped the pencil on my teeth. I know it’s rude and disloyal to discuss family business with other people, but Mrs. Needham says good writing is always about telling the truth.

Excerpted from The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

"We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful" is the motto of Deza Malone's family. 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.


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