A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Much about the Great Depression, from precarious employment, tent cities, and poorhouses to speakeasies, fancy cars, and shiny skyscrapers (not to mention baseball and boxing) will become vivid and memorable as experienced by Deza. Along with Deza's, the reader's critical thinking skills will get a workout as events progress; things aren't always what they seem, and they aren't always what the speaker believes, with the best intentions, to be true.
"We are a family on a journey to a place called Wonderful" is the Malones' family motto, and however bad things get, Deza never wavers from her belief in her family and that statement. Her parents and brother strive constantly against great odds to keep the family together and safe.
Positive Role Models
Deza and her family members' love and loyalty to one another are compelling, each of them (including the irrepressible Jimmie, whose sense of truth and reality tends to be a bit fluid) admirable in their own way. Their decisions wouldn't always be appropriate under more normal circumstances -- for example, when they're living in what we would now call a homeless encampment, Mrs. Malone and Deza are advised to lie when people ask where they're from -- but they're always driven by love for the family.
Violence & Scariness
An important scene, told in retrospect by the traumatized survivor, involves the wreck of a fishing boat that killed all but one of the men aboard, and there's some mystery as to what exactly happened. There's also a fight scene in which Jimmie is beaten by the neighborhood bully, whom Deza then trounces. The public hysteria leading up to the first boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling plays a role in the early part of the book.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
During perilous times on the road, Deza and her mother are advised to be extra careful, as life in the camps is even more dangerous for women and girls. On a more comic side, it's a recurring theme that females of all ages, from Deza's friend Clarice to the ladies of Detroit, are gaga over her sweet-voiced brother Jimmie.
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Products & Purchases
Fancy Buicks and Burma-Shave signs are part of the local color. One vignette has to do with bugs infesting the Quaker Oatmeal.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some scenes take place in a speakeasy in Detroit, though none of the central characters imbibe.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that positive messages abound in this tale of family tenacity in the Great Depression, but some of the misfortunes and hardships that befall the the Malone family are quite harrowing (e.g. losing their home, Mr. Malone's physical and mental deterioration) and may be troubling to more sensitive younger readers. The vivid snapshots of everyday life, main character Deza's exuberant, malapropism-laden love of language and learning, and the sudden dissonance of clashing worlds (say, the world of the Malones, and the world of the banker's family for whom Mrs. Malone cleans house) all add enjoyment, irony and interest to the story for thoughtful readers. There's' also an audiobook version narrated by Bahni Turpin.
Is It Any Good?
Deza is an unforgettable character whose perspective on historical events is by turns entertaining and provocative. Curtis' previous book, Bud, Not Buddy, in which young Deza makes an appearance, won both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award, among other honors, so THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE is in good company. As the story progresses, young readers will have frequent occasion to contemplate what it might have been like, for example, to be in constant pain because half their teeth were rotting away.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.