Bud Caldwell becomes orphaned at age 6 (mom dies) and by age 10 he’s had enough of the foster care homes and orphanages, and ventures out on his own to search of his long-lost father. Set in Depression-era Michigan, the author presents this perilous time through a child’s eyes, and shows what it might be like to be homeless, penniless, and on your own at a tender age.
The book was very funny, but would have been better without one scene where Bud gets a pencil shoved up his nose, is beaten, and decides to return the evil for evil (I skipped over it when we read it together). You won’t be able to just give this book to your kids without reading it with them and discussing Bud’s reaction to the bad things that happen to him; like the life lessons he shares throughout the book called Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself. For the most part, Bud’s rules are funny and harmless, but rule number 3 is If you got to tell a lie, make sure it’s simple and easy to remember. Cringe! I don’t like any book that endorses lying, but in Bud’s case, he doesn’t have parents to reinforce right from wrong. His lying habits keep him alive. My boys clearly understood Bud’s advice was not to be taken to heart.
Except for his street-smart lying habits, Bud surprisingly had a good sense of right and wrong, and was a likeable character. I can see the book as an interesting way to introduce the great depression. Kids will be rooting for Bud, and will come away from the story appreciating all they have.