cover image The Journey of Little Charlie

The Journey of Little Charlie

Christopher Paul Curtis. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-545-15666-0

Echoing themes found in Curtis’s Newbery Honor–winning Elijah of Buxton, this exceedingly tense novel set in 1858 provides a very different perspective on the business of catching runaway slaves. Eking out a living as South Carolina sharecroppers, the Bobo family knows hard luck. After 12-year-old Charlie’s father is killed in a freak accident, Charlie reluctantly agrees to pay off his father’s debt by accompanying a plantation overseer, the despicable Captain Buck, on a hunt for three runaways. Charlie’s journey takes him north to Detroit and Canada where black people and white people work and live peaceably together. Sickened by the dirty business of rounding up former enslaved men and women, Charlie hatches a risky scheme to steer them to safety. Curtis portrays Charlie as a product of his white Southern upbringing and values, skillfully conveying how his widening view of the world leads to a change in his thinking. Written in persuasive dialect and piloted by a hero who finds the courage to do what he knows is right, Curtis’s unsparing novel pulls no punches as it illuminates an ugly chapter of American history. Ages 9–12. (Jan.)