Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Bud, Not Buddy
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This might sound silly, but this book reminded me that ten-year-old boys are still children. I have a son, but he’s not yet five, so it’s clear that he’s still a child, and my nine-year-old daughter reminds me several times a day that she’s still a child, but the ten-year-old boys I know all seem so tall and lanky and serious and I see them just infrequently enough that I forget how young ten is. I’m sure my son will remind me as he gets older.

Bud is so self-sufficient and at the same time so vulnerable, so serious and yet so full of fun and silliness. The last chapters reminded me so forcefully of his still being a child that I nearly cried at a couple of spots. This was inconvenient because the kids and I were listening to the audiobook on the drive to flute lesson. Bud was talking about his mom while I was exiting the Massachusetts Turnpike, and I had to hold back tears because one really needs one’s wits and clear vision during such a maneuver. (Of course, driving on the Pike frequently brings me to tears, but I’m pretty sure this time was because of the story.)

This book made me wonder, when do we stop being children? When do we stop needing someone to care for us and treat us gently when we’re feeling vulnerable? We can vote at age 18 and buy alcohol at age 21, but does that mean we’ve lost the need for tenderness?

My sister was visiting this weekend and we reflected that neither of us looks like a grownup to the other, although we’re pretty sure we look like grownups to other people. Is it possible that the transition between childhood and adulthood isn’t the passage over a distinct boundary, that throughout our lives we actually just pass in and out of varying stages of development that are arbitrarily labeled “childhood” and “adulthood”? What if there’s really not that much difference between the individuals we are when we’re called “toddlers” and the individuals we are when we’re called “elderly”?

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