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Written by Christopher Paul CurtisAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Christopher Paul Curtis



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On Sale: January 10, 2012
Pages: 320 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89736-8
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE & AWARDS PRAISE & AWARDS
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

"We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful" is the motto of Deza Malone's family. Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But it's 1936 and the Great Depression has hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother, Jimmie, go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie's beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father. The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.

Excerpt

Chapter One

Journey to Wonderful

“Once upon a time . . .”

If I could get away with it, that’s how I’d begin every essay I write.

Those are the four best words to use when you start telling about yourself because anything that begins that way always, always finishes with another four words, “. . . they lived happily everafter.”

And that’s a good ending for any story.

I shut my dictionary and thesaurus and went back over my essay for the last time.

The best teacher in the world, Mrs. Karen Needham, had given us a assignment to write about our families. I knew, just like always, she was going to love mine. She’d only asked for two pages but this was our last essay for the year, so I wrote six.

Once upon a time . . . in Gary, Indiana, lived a family of three very special, very happy and uniquely talented people. I am the fourth member of that family and much too modest to include myself in such a grandiose description of their exalted number. But many people say I am of the same ilk and for that I remain internally grateful.

My mother, Mrs. Margaret “Peggy” Sutphen Malone, was born here in Gary, Indiana. She is willowy and radiant and spell-blindingly beautiful. She is also very intelligent. She has a great job cleaning for the Carsdale family. Yes, that Carsdale family! The family whose patriarch is the president of the Gary Citizens’ Bank.

Her most endearing trait is that she is the glue holding this family together.

“Deza?”

I jumped and my pencil flew out of my hand.

When I’m writing or reading a book, everything else around me disappears. Father says it’s because I’ve settled into what I’m doing, the same way my brother Jimmie does when he’s singing.

“Jimmie! I told you not to sneak up on me like that when I’m writing!”

He handed me the pencil. “I couldn’t help it, sis, you were so far gone. What’re you writing?”

“My last essay for Mrs. Needham.”

“You know, a lot of people are saying her not coming back to teach is the best thing that ever happened at Lincoln Woods School.”

“James Malone, if I ever give one-half a hoot what a lot of people are saying, you have my permission to slap me silly. Mrs. Needham is the best teacher in the world. Now, if you don’t mind. I never bother you when you’re singing, don’t bother me when I’m writing.”

“But lots of people love listening to me sing, Deza, seems to me like only you, that little pest Clarice Anne Johnson and Mrs. Needham like reading what you write.”

Jimmie is one of those people who can say something that might sound mean at first, but when he smiles and makes his eyebrows jump up and down you can’t help smiling. He gets this deep, deep dimple in his right cheek and you end up laughing right along with him.

My dearest friend, Clarice Anne Johnson, has a horrible and completely un-understandable crush on Jimmie. She says she bets you could pour cornflakes in his dimple and eat them out with a spoon.

I’m hoping Clarice’s taste in boys improves as she gets older.

“Jimmie, please.”

“Sorry, sis. I’m heading out, can I do anything for you before I split?”

“No, thanks. Just make sure you’re back for supper.”

I looked at Mrs. Needham’s instructions again. “What is the most annoying trait of some of your family members?”

That was easy to come up with for Father and Jimmie, but I couldn’t think of a single annoying trait for Mother. I wrote:

Mother’s pet peeve is that she hates the way a lot of people are mean to Jimmie for no reason.

Her dreams are to see Father get a job where he doesn’t always get laid off, for Jimmie to start growing again and be happy and to watch me graduate from college and be a teacher.

My father, Mr. Roscoe Malone, was born in a village in Michigan called Flint, which is geologically located 250 miles northeast of Gary. For some reason that none of us can understand he is very proud of this. He is tall and strikingly handsome, he’s also intelligent and well-read.

He toils and labors mostly for the Company doing work in a horribly hot furnace and sometimes being a janitor.

His most annoying trait is the way he uses alliteration every chance he has.

I looked up from my paper. That is so true, but I wondered for a minute if I should put it in the essay. It isn’t like he can help himself.

He always calls me his Darling Daughter Deza, and I’m supposed to answer that he is my Dearest Delightful Daddy. He calls Jimmie the Genuine, Gentle Jumpin’ Giant, and Jimmie’s supposed to call him his Fine Friendly Father Figure. Father also calls Mother the Marvelous Mammalian Matriarch, but she says she won’t respond because she refuses to play silly word games with such a “hardheaded husband who hasn’t heard how horrible he is.”

Mother told me, “Such nonsense is in the blood of the Malones and you should be happy that so far it looks like you haven’t inherited any of it.”

She says Jimmie is a different story.

I tapped the pencil on my teeth. I know it’s rude and disloyal to discuss family business with other people, but Mrs. Needham says good writing is always about telling the truth.
Christopher Paul Curtis|Author Q&A

About Christopher Paul Curtis

Christopher Paul Curtis - The Mighty Miss Malone

Photo © University of Michigan Flint.

“To me the highest accolade comes when a young reader tells me, ‘I really liked your book.’ The young seem to be able to say ‘really’ with a clarity, a faith, and an honesty that we as adults have long forgotten. That is why I write.”—Christopher Paul Curtis

Christopher Paul Curtis made an outstanding debut in children’s literature with The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963. His second novel, Bud, Not Buddy, is the first book ever to receive both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born in Flint, Michigan, Christopher Paul Curtis spent his first 13 years after high school on the assembly line of Flint’s historic Fisher Body Plant # 1. His job entailed hanging car doors, and it left him with an aversion to getting into and out of large automobiles—particularly big Buicks.

Curtis’s writing—and his dedication to it—has been greatly influenced by his family members. With grandfathers like Earl “Lefty” Lewis, a Negro Baseball League pitcher, and 1930s bandleader Herman E. Curtis, Sr., of Herman Curtis and the Dusky Devastators of the Depression, it is easy to see why Christopher Paul Curtis was destined to become an entertainer.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 tells the story of 10-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan, and their unforgettable journey that leads them into one of the darkest moments in American history. It is by turns a hilarious, touching, and tragic story about civil rights and the impact of violence on one family.

Curtis’s novel Bud, Not Buddy focuses on 10-year-old Bud Caldwell, who hits the road in search of his father and his home. Times may be hard in 1936 Flint, Michigan, but orphaned Bud’s got a few things going for him; he believes his mother left a clue of who his father was—and nothing can stop Bud from trying to find him.

PRAISE

THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM—1963

—A Newbery Honor Book
—A Coretta Scott King Honor Book
—An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
—An ALA Notable Children’s Book
—A Booklist 25 Top Black History Picks for Youth
—An NCSS-CBC Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
—A Children’ s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Book of the Year
—A New York Times Best Book
—A Publishers Weekly Best Book
—A Horn Book Fanfare
—A Bulletin Blue Ribbon
—The California Young Reader Medal

“An exceptional first novel.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Ribald humor . . . and a totally believable child’s view of the world will make this book an instant hit.”—Starred, School Library Journal

“Startling, innovative, and effective.”—Starred, The Bulletin

BUD, NOT BUDDY

—A Newbery Medal Winner
—A Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner
—An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
—An ALA Notable Children’s Book
—An IRA Children’s Book Award Winner
—An NCSS-CBC Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
—A School Library Journal Best Book
—A Publishers Weekly Best Book
—A New York Times Notable Book

“Curtis has given a fresh, new look to a traditional orphan-finds-a-home story that would be a crackerjack read-aloud.”—Starred, School Library Journal

“Bud’s journey, punctuated by Dickensian twists in plot and enlivened by a host of memorable personalities, will keep readers engrossed from first page to last.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly



Author Q&A

An excerpt from Christopher Paul Curtis’s Afterword in his novel, THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE:
 
Even though Deza is a fictional character, many of her woes are based on the lives and struggles of very real children. A particularly rich and heartbreaking source was the collection of letters children sent to President Roosevelt during the Great Depression.
                           
Authors are frequently asked what they want a particular book to accomplish. 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. After writing that last sentence, I can’t help feeling this: the fact that in late 2011 I can write that there are fifteen million poor children in this country is, to quote the Mighty Miss Malone, “A tragedy, a true tragedy.”

-Christopher Paul Curtis
 
(Figures are from the National Poverty Center of the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy—2009 Poverty Thresholds.)

Praise | Awards

Praise

Publisher's Weekly Best Children's Book of 2012

Kirkus Reviews Best Teen's Book of 2012


Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2011:
“Deza is one great heroine in her own right, a fitting literary companion to Bud Caldwell.”

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, December 12, 2011:
“Though the resolution of the family’s crisis is perhaps far-fetched, some readers will feel they are due a bit of happiness; others will be struck by how little has changed in 75 years for the nation’s have-nots.”




From the Hardcover edition.

Awards

WINNER National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Gold Award
FINALIST NAACP Image Awards
NOMINEE ALA Notable Children's Book
NOMINEE Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fischer Book Award
NOMINEE Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award
NOMINEE New York State Charlotte Award
NOMINEE Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award
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