What happens at the end of Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis, Bud comes to the end of his journey, in Michigan (in the middle of the Great Depression) looking for his father. Bud (only ten) has lost his mother (at six years old). Since then, he has lived in an orphanage, and has been mistreated by his foster family and has run away. Resourceful and determined, using flyers his mother saved about Herman E. Calloway and his bands (known by several names), Bud has faced the harrowing experiences of being homeless, observing that many others are in the same position. He sees them in food lines and shantytowns to trying to catch the freight train to find a new life.

By the time Bud finally (through the help of his librarian and Mr. Lefty Lewis) arrives in Grand Rapids, he has learned a lot about life outside of the Home. When Bud arrives, he announces who he thinks his father is:

"...I'm here to meet my father."

Jimmy said, "Who's your daddy? Why'd he tell you to meet him here?"

I kept looking at Herman E. Calloway.

"He didn't tell me to meet him here, sir, I come all the way from Flint to meet my daddy for the very first time."

[The drummer says,] "...What's your momma's name, boy?"

I said, "You ain't my daddy." I pointed right at Herman E. Calloway's big belly. "You know it's you...I know it's you."

This creates quite a stir. Herman E. Calloway isn't buying Bud's story, but Miss Thomas (the band's singer) convinces Calloway that they have to take the boy home with them so he has a place to sleep.

It is at the house that Bud is accepted into the family circle of the band members—all but Calloway who is suspicious. Bud helps to clean up around the house and the club, and begins learning how to play the recorder (a wooden "flute-like" instrument). One day, returning home from business, Bud is in the car with Calloway who has just had the boy pick up a rock from the ground for him. Calloway places it in his pocket. In the glove box, Bud sees other rocks with writing on them and realizes they look like his rocks. When they arrive home, Bud shows Herman his own rocks and Calloway accuses Bud of stealing them.

I said, "No, sir, I did not."

Mr. C. said, "Then where did you get them?..."

Mr. Jimmy looks at them and asks Bud again, where he got them.

I said, "Mr. Jimmy, I didn't find them or steal them from nowhere, these've always been mine. I got them from my momma and that's the swear-'fore-God truth..."

Both Mr. Jimmy and Herman E. Calloway said, "Your momma?"

The men ask about his momma's name. Calloway is angry, growling at Bud even as he demands to know his mother's name. Bud finally has had it.

I screamed at him, "Angela, sir...Her name is Angela Janet Caldwell."

Mr. Jimmy and Herman are shocked...Herman stumbles away "like he was struck blind." Bud now learns that Herman is not his father, but his grandfather! Because the older man is so grumpy, Bud is relieved.

In Bud's room, Calloway is crying—Bud realizes is not the room of "some dead girl," but of his mother. Miss Thomas lets Bud know how proud Herman was of his daughter, though he pushed her hard to be what he wanted her to be.

Miss Thomas reminds Bud of how hard it was to lose his mother, and that Calloway has just learned of her death. She asks Bud to be patient with Calloway. As his grandfather struggles to accept all he has learned—especially that his daughter has died—Bud unpacks. He has come home; he knows everything will be all right!

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