The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Book Review: The Mighty Miss Malone

I know that not everyone loves reading for pleasure but, honestly, I can’t imagine not doing so! Even when I was in college and swamped with assignments that took up much of my time, I still read for pleasure as often as I always have. Which is probably why I also feel like there is something magical about learning important life lessons through stories. Literature allows me to break away from the world around me and experience another time, another place, another life, and then return, having been greatly improved by the experience.

When I think about authors who teach these lessons so well, I think of many, but I have recently come to really, really, really enjoy the books written by Christopher Paul Curtis. I haven’t read all of them, but every selection I’ve read has been a fantastically well-written tale that captures the beauty of persevering in the face of great trial and struggle. The first book by Mr. Curtis that I read was Bud, Not Buddy which was recommended by several teacher friends online last year. I heard that he had, ten years later, finally written a sort-of sequel to the story, although it is more like a companion novel. This book is The Mighty Miss Malone and brings us back to the time of the Great Depression. It focuses on the struggles of African-American families, as most of Mr. Curtis’s books do, but the lessons apply to everyone. It is especially interesting to read now when so many people in America of all ethnicities are hurting from the poor economic situation. Even as we are told that things are improving, there are many who have not yet seen these improvements, especially in my community. Reading about Deza Malone and her family’s struggles to make ends meet, to provide for themselves, and to find independence without losing each other reminds us of the struggles that our friends and neighbours are experiencing right now.

Usually when I read a book, there is some brief passage that feels like it captures the entire story. A quote that I can reference that allows me to explain why you should read this book for yourself. The Mighty Miss Malone does not have such a passage, at least not in the actual story. There is something in the author’s afterword, though, that I feel does explain it. It is his own reason for writing this story. Who better to ask than the author himself?

What I want The Mighty Miss Malone to do is, first, to provide an enjoyable read. Second, as with all of my books, I want this to be a springboard for young people to ask questions and do more research on some of the themes the book explores, in this case the Great Depression and poverty in general. And third, I hope that Deza can serve as a voice for the estimated fifteen million American children who are poor, who go to bed hungry and whose parents struggle to make a dignified living to feed and care for them.

If for no other reason, I hope that students and families will read this story to remind themselves that they are not alone, but also that they are not without hope.

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