Art Works Blog

Art Works Podcast: Christopher Paul Curtis

Meet Christopher Paul Curtis. He is known for writing historical fiction for young adults that center on African-American families and tackle tough issues with humor and honesty. His latest book, The Mighty Miss Malone, has all the hallmarks of a Curtis novel: a likeable and utterly believable young protagonist, a Rust Belt setting, a vividly drawn moment in history (in this case, the Great Depression), and moments of real humor interlaced with a story of genuine pathos.

In many ways, Curtis has had a blessed career. His first book, The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, tells the story of ten-year-old Kenny, his family, and a trip that leads them into a tragic moment in American history. It somehow managed to be hilarious, and in turn, tragic. It also racked up a slew of awards including a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Honor. Curtis followed that up with Bud, Not Buddy, which is set in 1936 Flint, Michigan, and focuses on ten-year-old orphan Bud Caldwell, who hits the road in search of family. It became the first book ever to receive both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award. Curtis then went on to receive still another Coretta Scott King Author Award and a Newbery Honor for Elijah of Buxton, a novel about the first child born free in a settlement of runaway slaves in southern Canada. Yet, Curtis's path to writing was not an easy or obvious one. It began, interestingly enough, in a factory in Flint, Michigan. [2:22]

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