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Bad Neighbors by Maia Chance
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The Journey of Little Charlie: 05/29/18

The Journey of Little Charlie

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis is set in mid-1800s in South Carolina, Michigan, and Ontario. The story follows twelve year old Charlie Bobo as he is orphaned and then forced north to track down three escaped slaves. Charlie maybe young but he's big for his age and that gives him opportunities most kids his age wouldn't have but that responsibility forces him to do some serious growing up.

In print the book is completely written in dialect rather like how The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is. I am terrible at reading dialect. The words don't sound right to me and I end up struggling so hard with getting through even a paragraph that I end up hating a book even if I would otherwise like it.

As this particular book covers Canada's part in the Underground Railroad, specifically Buxton, a town founded by former slaves. While the Canadian piece of this novel is only the last quarter — or maybe third — of the novel, I am counting this book as an honorary Canadian book challenge addition.

So after three chapters in print, I switched to the audio version, read by someone capable of making the dialect sound like a spoken accent and also bring the characters to life. For anyone else who struggled with the book in print, please try it again as an audio.

The afterword includes the creative process for the novel. The story was inspired by an actual article in a Canadian newspaper about a young black man duped into riding a train back towards Windsor (the Canadian city just across the river from Detroit). Originally the plan was to alternate stories between Syl and Charlie but Charlie's voice won out.

While I can say that Charlie has a unique voice and perspective, I can honestly say I wanted more of Syl's story. I wanted more Canada. I wanted more of Windsor, Buxton and Chatham.

Four stars

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