Chapter 1 Summary

Bud, Not Buddy is the story of a ten-year-old black boy who is trying to find his family in Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression.

As the story opens, Bud is at the Home, a place for orphaned children. He and his friend Jerry stand in line as the caseworker enters. The woman stops in front of the two boys to say that each will be placed in foster care in different homes. Bud will stay with a family that has a son older than he is, and Jerry will live with a family that has three daughters.

This is not a new experience for Bud, and he dreads having to move from the Home yet again.

The caseworker reminds the boys that they are in the midst of a depression and that they should be thankful that these families will take them in. The boys gather their belongings. Bud, who narrates the story, remembers that this will be his third foster home. He does not struggle with tears as Jerry does; Bud, in fact, believes he has forgotten how to cry. Bud also has no illusions about his foster care situation. He knows he will have to prove himself to the older boy, who will probably want to fight him.

Bud is sensitive to the needs of others. He is worried about Jerry, who is only six, because his experience in the foster care system has taught him that moving around at six is hard. Bud has learned that life for a foster child is particularly difficult and that it is not uncommon to be hit or punched by foster family members.

Bud finds that humor helps him cope. Throughout the story, Bud will continue to look to his sense of humor to keep things in perspective.

Bud gathers his suitcase, something of which he takes special care: it hold his most precious belongings. Under the blanket inside, with his other “treasures,” there is a blue flyer that has information about Herman E. Calloway, a musician. Bud believes this flyer holds a clue about who his father is. He remembers that this paper upset his mother when she first found it, and it was not long after he found her dead in her bedroom.

Finally prepared, the two boys sit on the edge of a bed to wait, shoulders touching. Neither speaks; they each wait quietly to see what the future holds for them.