The Mighty Miss Malone. New York: Wendy Lamb Books.
Seven hours and 55 minutes.
Before even starting to read this middle grade, historical novel, it had a lot working towards its advantage:
1. It was written by Christopher Paul Curtis. As the author of The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963, Bud, Not Buddy and Elijah of Buxton and who has repeatedly brought history to life with humor and compassion, I expected more of the same from The Mighty Miss Malone.
2. The audio book is narrated by Bahni Turpin. I absolutely loved the way that her narration brought The True Meaning of Smekday to life. It's one of my favorite audio books EVER.
3. Curtis tends to feature Michigan heavily in his books. Since Grand Rapids, MI is my hometown, I'm always happy to see my home-state represented. (This book is no exception since it features a baseball team from GR, a journey to Flint, brief visits to Detroit and Lansing and a note about how proud Michigan people are to talk about how they're from Michigan Woo-hoo!)
So, I started listening to The Mighty Miss Malone with high expectations.
Appetizer: In 1936, Deza Malone is 12. She, her fifteen-year-old brother--Jimmy--and their parents live in poverty in Gary, Indiana during the Great Depression. They can get through anything as long as they have one another. Even though her dad is having trouble finding a job. Even though her brother stopped growing several years ago, can sing like an angel and stole a pie. Even though Deza's teacher thinks she's intended for greatness. Even though Deza's teeth are rotting in her mouth since the family can't afford to take her to a dentist. And even though (last one, I swear) they have to eat buggy oatmeal that their mom gets from the government.
After Deza's dad goes on a fishing trip that ends in tragedy, their situation becomes more precarious. He most return to his home town of Flint, Michigan to try and improve their family's situation, but after they don't hear from him for over a month, the Malone family decides their only choice is to follow him in the hope of reuniting and finding their way through their difficulties together.
Given the current economic climate, there's a lot that rings true about The Mighty Miss Malone: The uncertainty and stress of trying to have everything you need, seeing hopes that have to be set aside for practicality and the struggle to keep a family together.
As with Curtis's other historical novels, The Mighty Miss Malone includes many touches of humor (although, I must admit, I was hoping for even more...but then, nothing can live up to the tongue stuck to the side view mirror of a car in the Michigan cold scene from The Watsons Go to Birmingham). On the plus side, there are a couple of scenes where Miss Malone's path crosses with Bud and Bugs from Bud, Not Buddy. I'd been wondering if that would happen.
There was a lot of rich history to explore: The biography of boxer Joe Lewis, the Great Depression and the government's programs for the poor, Hoovervilles, riding the rails, the realities of prejudice, literacy, etc.
As an audio book reader, Turpin didn't disappoint. I was once again impressed by her ability to use different voices and bring the protagonist to life.
"Once upon a time...."
Tasty Rating: !!!