Chapter 9 Summary

Bud has arrived at the mission in time to eat after leaving Hooverville. His “family” from the previous day is not there.

When he finishes breakfast, Bud waits under his tree. When the library opens, Bud goes to the librarian he spoke to the day before and asks to borrow a pencil, paper, and the atlas that will help him calculate the distance from one city to another. While they are speaking, the librarian mentions that she remembers when Bud and his mom used to visit the library years before. She gives him the atlas he has requested and tells him that she will have a surprise for him when he returns the atlas.

Bud uses the book, does a little math, and calculates the distance between Flint and Grand Rapids, where he believes his father lives. He estimates that it will take twenty-four hours for him to walk to Grand Rapids: an entire day and a night on the road. He decides to begin his trip after dark.

When Bud returns the atlas to the librarian, she hands him a new book to read on the Civil War; she remembers that he used to check out many books on the subject. The volume she gives him is beautiful, and Bud likes it so much that he reads it the entire day—so long, in fact, that he misses dinner. When he is aware of the passage of time, the library is ready to close.

When Bud gives the book back, the librarian offers him a sandwich. Bud returns to his tree to wait to begin his trip, and he eats the sandwich. Then he starts his journey to Grand Rapids.

Bud thinks ideas are funny little things that start like seeds: they are tiny but grow into something enormous. He compares the seed to the idea that Herman E. Calloway is his father. It all started very small in response to Billy Burns, the biggest bully at the Home. Billy made fun of the boys in his room, saying that none of them even knew who their parents were. Bud refutes the comment by saying that he not only knew his mother but that they lived together for years. Then Billy ridicules Bud for not knowing who his father is. Based on the flyers, Bud fills in some missing information and says that Herman is his dad and he plays a big violin. Somehow, this little thought has become a giant one: an idea that Bud has accepted as truth.

When he thinks about the contents of his suitcase, Bud knows they are treasures and very important. He knows his mother had planned to explain—gently—what they all meant when he was older, but she ran out of time. Looking at the flyers again solidifies Bud’s plan to go to Grand Rapids to find his father. Like Bugs, he is heading west.