Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis

I listened to the audiobook and didn't realize this was written in a southern dialect.  No problems here understanding Little Charlie's southern accent by an excellent narrator.  Little Charlie is from a poor white sharecropper family in the 1800s and at 6 feet two inches he is anything but little. The nuanced characters come alive making this tale hard to put down. Little Charlie is a flawed character that changes from his experience into a better person. The exploration of prejudice, racism, violence, and heroic behavior guarantees spirited discussions.

Twelve-year-old Charlie Bobo's father dies in a freak accident, leaving Charlie and his mother vulnerable to being taken advantage of by those that want their land. Sure enough, they become victims of the evil Capt'n Buck, an overseer of the landowner who is notorious for his violence against slaves and tenants. Charlie is conscripted by Capt'n Buck to find a family of runaway slaves in Canada claiming he has to pay off his father's debt. Capt'n Buck is a nasty piece of work whose claims at borrowing money to their father sounds fishy from the get-go. Little Charlie's mother is so frightened by Capt'n Buck that she tries to shoot him when he comes to collect the money. As Capt'n Buck and Little Charlie journey north, Little Charlie has new experiences that lead him to make moral decisions regarding following the crowd or listening to his conscience.

Charlie is a flawed character. He's racist at the beginning and less so by the end and he represents a white Southern upbringing, but as his mom says, he has a good heart and the reader is left with the hope he'll grow into a decent human being. He makes mistakes along the way, refers to blacks as "darkies", and is jealous of the educated and more polished runaway black boy going to school that he's been sent to catch. Little Charlie's jealousy leads to errors in judgment and the reader is able to really get inside his head thanks to some great writing. The history of Canada and protection certain towns provided for runaway slaves is fascinating. Make sure to read or listen to the author's notes.

5 Smileys

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