Bud, Not Buddy Characters

The main characters in Bud, Not Buddy are Bud Caldwell, Angela Caldwell, Herman E. Caldwell, and Lefty Lewis.

  • Bud Caldwell, the novel's protagonist, is a bright and independent ten-year-old boy who sets off on a journey in search of his father.
  • Angela Caldwell is Bud's late mother, whom Bud thinks about often and whose belongings hint at the identity of Bud's father.
  • Herman E. Caldwell, whom Bud believes is his father, is the leader of a successful jazz band in Grand Rapids. Herman is initially surly towards Bud, but his band takes him in.
  • Lefty Lewis is a labor supporter who drives Bud to Grand Rapids.

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

Bud Caldwell

Bud Caldwell, the novel’s protagonist, is a ten-year-old boy living in an orphanage in Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression. He has been in and out of foster homes since he was six and is deeply cynical about their utility after having suffered continued mistreatment. After being locked in one family’s shed, a particularly harrowing experience, he decides to sneak out in the middle of the night and go “on the lam.”

Despite never having known his father, Bud suspects there are clues to his identity left in his mother’s belongings: flyers for different bands led by Herman E. Calloway. Certain that Herman must be his father, Bud sets out for Grand Rapids to find him.

Bud is wise and savvy for a kid his age, and, with the help of a few people he meets along the way, he eventually makes it to Grand Rapids to confront Herman E. Calloway. Herman denies Bud's accusation outright, but Herman’s backing band takes a liking to Bud anyway, and they decide to take him in until the truth can be uncovered.

In time, the group is able to piece the truth together. Soon, they realize Bud and Herman are both partially correct—Herman E. Calloway is not Bud’s long-lost father but rather his long-lost grandfather.

Angela Caldwell 

Angela Caldwell is Bud’s mother. Though she died when Bud was six, four years before the events of the novel, she is constantly present as an unseen character throughout the narrative. Bud's own thoughts and actions are often contextualized in relation to his mother's life and memory, and his search for his father is driven by clues he ascertains from the items she has left behind. Her death is never fully explained, but it can be assumed to be related to an illness; Bud mentions that she was too sick to go to work for a number of days before her death.

Bud remembers his mother as hopeful, romantic, and also highly energetic—“like a tornado,” he says in chapter 2. When he finds himself living in her childhood room at Herman E. Calloway’s house, he gets a glimpse into what she was like as a younger woman. The room is carefully and meticulously wallpapered with pictures of horses, and her father has been saving a rock collection for her for years.

Herman E. Calloway

Herman E. Calloway is the leader of a well-known and successful band in Grand Rapids. Because Angela kept a stack of flyers for Herman’s band, Bud assumes that he must be his long-lost father.

When Bud finally makes his way to Grand Rapids to meet Herman E. Calloway, Bud finds that he is much older than he expected. Herman denies that he could possibly be Bud's father, but his band insists on taking Bud in until they can uncover the truth. Herman, annoyed, is brusque and cold with him even as the band makes him feel at home.

When Bud discovers that Herman picks up rocks on his travels and labels them with the date and location, Bud recalls that he has an identical collection that belonged to his mother. The truth is then revealed: Angela was Herman’s estranged daughter, which means Bud is his grandson.

Lefty Lewis

Lefty Lewis is a porter and driver who finds Bud on the side of the road in the middle of the night. Insisting that it’s not safe for him to stay there alone, Lefty convinces Bud to join him on his errand and accompany him ­to Grand Rapids in the morning.

When Bud gets in the car, he sees a container of human blood. Lefty is providing medical transport to a hospital, but Bud assumes something much more sinister: Lefty must be a vampire. Before Lefty can get back in the driver's seat, Bud attempts to drive off with the car. Instead of being angry, Lefty laughs it off, saying “Thank God you don’t know how to drive.” Having earned a degree of Bud’s trust, Lefty takes him to his family’s house for the evening for a good meal and a change of clothes before they return to Grand Rapids. Eventually, Bud learns that Lefty is also transporting some contraband back to Grand Rapids: secret fliers for a labor union.

Lefty is especially funny, kind, generous, and patient with Bud, and he makes Bud promise that if he ever runs away again he’ll seek Lefty out for help and advice first.

The Band

The members of Herman E. Calloway’s backing band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression—Miss Thomas, Steady Eddie, Mr. Jimmy, Doug the Thug, Dirty Deed, and Doo Doo Bug—take a liking to Bud, even when Herman himself is dismissive of him. They decide he should stay with them until things can be straightened out, and they take care to make him feel at home. They give Bud the nickname “Sleepy LaBone" for sleeping so much and being so wiry. They also give Bud a saxophone and begin training him to eventually join them onstage.

The Amoses

The Amoses are the last foster family Bud tolerates before deciding to run away. After their son, Todd, sticks a pencil up Bud’s nose while he’s sleeping, the two get into a fight. When the Amoses confront them, Todd blames Bud for the incident, and the family locks Bud in their backyard shed for the night. Instead of allowing the Amoses to return Bud to the orphanage in the morning, Bud quietly sneaks out and begins his adventure.

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