The second oldest of five siblings, Christopher was born and raised in Flint, Michigan which has been used as a prominent setting in several stories including The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 and Bucking the Sarge. Graduating from Flint Southwestern High School, Christopher immediately did two things: 1) enrolled at Flint’s University of Michigan and 2) applied for a job at Fisher Body Plant No. 1, a General Motors assembly facility. This was extremely typical for many young adults. Most blue-collar jobs, particularly in “the jungle” where Christopher worked, were often heavy-duty, hard-working tasks, requiring minimal educational skills at best. The pay and benefits couldn’t be beat, so for high school graduates that wanted a significant income right out of school, General Motors was the ticket.
Of all the various departments one could work, the “Jungle” was easily one of the worst. The Jungle was where the manufacturing process began, various sizes and shapes of metal being welded together at sequential work stations that eventually became the body frame of the automobile. With all the large welding equipment hanging from the ceiling like Amazon liana branches, as well as pneumatic, electrical and other connections running to and from all the robotic welding arms gave the area the appearance of a mechanical jungle. In addition, the scent of oil, grease and lingering smoke from the welding guns only added to the metallic ambience.
Once the car’s basic skeletal frame was established, one of the first things to get added were the doors. This was Christopher’s work station. During the 70s, Fisher Body produced three models – the Electra 225 (also known as a “deuce and a quarter”), LaSabre and Riveria. All very big and extremely heavy vehicles. Very little plastic was used; the cars were made of mostly metal. Because the doors were so big and quite heavy, the company set the job up for two men to alternate installing the doors on every other car coming down the assembly line. This went on each night for eight or more hours, about 60 cars per hour.
Christopher and his coworker decided that instead of working every other car, they would work every 30 minutes. This allowed Christopher time to do other things — besides reading novels (one of his great passions), he began writing to overcome the boredom. Some of the writings were letters; others were sketches of stories that, like his character Bud Caldwell (Bud, Not Buddy), began the colorful sojourn which led him to become one of America’s leading authors of children’s literature.
Christopher currently lives in Detroit, Michigan and in his free time still enjoys reading, playing basketball and collecting music.
Today, I present to you Mr. Christoper Paul Curtis. You may not necessarily know him by name, but you will know him by the books that he has written.
The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 (received both Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Honors)
Bud Not Buddy (which is the ONLY book to win both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award)
Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money
Mr. Chickee’s Messy Mission
Bucking the Sarge
The Mighty Miss Malone
Mr. Curtis’ writing style captures the attention of both children and adults. The writing style is easy, yet as imaginative as you can imagine, and the fact that his first two novels were based largely on civil rights era issues is a plus in this mama’s eyes.
The cellist did read both Bud Not Buddy and The Watson’s Go To Birmingham when he was in fourth grade (thanks Ms. Willis!) and he enjoyed them both very much. If you do need an excellent book to go along with any black history lessons that you have going on this month or for the rest of your homeschooling/ supplemental schooling year – Mr. Curtis offers two very good ones in the likes of the ones that I have mentioned.
So, you know what the next step is, right? Go to your local library and check these out. And if you don’t have a child, don’t worry, the librarian won’t judge you.