Summary of Bud, Not Buddy

Instructor: Mary Evans

Mary has taught elementary school for six years and has a master's degree in education.

'Bud, Not Buddy' follows the journey of a 10 year-old African American orphan named Bud Caldwell as he searches for a forever home during the Great Depression. This lesson gives a summary of the story.

Bud Runs Away

Bud, Not Buddy begins in a children's home in Flint, Michigan, in 1936. This was during the Great Depression, when many people were very poor and could not find jobs. Bud Caldwell has been in the home since his mother died four years ago, and now he is being sent to a foster home. He has no possessions except an old suitcase with a few rocks, some flyers advertising a jazz band, and a blanket that reminds him of happier times. He guards these items with his life.

The Amos family takes Bud in. On his first night there, Todd Amos starts a fight with Bud and then lies about it to his parents. The parents lock Bud in a scary shed full of bats and hornets! When the hornets strike, Bud fights his way out of the shed, grabs his suitcase, and runs away.

Bud and Bugs

After running away, Bud's old friend Bugs convinces him to go to Hooverville and hop a westward bound freight train. Unfortunately, Hooverville is not really a town, but a collection of makeshift cardboard houses and a bunch of homeless people who are all hoping to find work in the West. To top it off, Bugs catches the train, but Bud is left behind to figure out a new plan.

Unemployed men hop a freight train during the Great Depression, much like Bud tried to do.
unemployed men hop train during Great Depression

Back in Flint, Bud gets help from a librarian who calculates the distance from Flint to Grand Rapids, where he believes his father lives. Bud is convinced that Herman E. Calloway is his father because Bud's mother always acted very sad when she looked at the flyers advertising Calloway's band. Bud decides to walk to Grand Rapids, over 100 miles away.

Luckily, a stranger named Lefty Lewis rescues him from a very dangerous walk. Lefty gets him food, clothes, and a good night's sleep before driving him to Grand Rapids and dropping him off at a jazz club owned by the famous Calloway.

Bud's Life With the Band

The band is perplexed when Bud arrives, and Calloway is not happy. No one believes that Calloway is Bud's father, but the other guys are nice to him anyway and decide to treat him to his first restaurant dinner. The members of the band are: Calloway (the leader), Jimmy, Doo-Doo Bug, Steady Eddie, Dirty Deed, and the Thug. The meal is significant because afterwards Bud cries for the first time in years.

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