After finishing Bud, Not Buddy, I find myself struggling as I try to decide what to write about. Of course I want to talk about the end, when Bud gives the flyers and rocks to Mr. C and talks about his mother, since that made me tear up. Honestly, I just read The Road by Cormac McCarthy and that book, known for making its readers dissolve into pathetic teary piles on the floor, didn’t have the effect on me that the end of this book did.
I’d also love to talk about the significance of names in the story. Bud is insistent that he be called Bud, not Buddy. He also goes by Clarence, as well as Sleepy LeBone. Then there are the names of all the people in the band and how much their names mean to them. Names seem tied to a sense of identity in a very strong way within the book.
However, I think I’m actually going to talk about the way food functions in this book and in other children’s books we’ve read. In Where the Wild Things Are, Max comes home from his adventure to find that his dinner is sitting there waiting for him, still warm. In Charlotte’s Web, Wilbur shares his food with Templeton. In Coraline, the story ends when Coraline takes a picnic into the woods with her dolls, which is a mimicry of a well-established western meal ritual. In Bud, Not Buddy, Bud is often given food by the people he meets on his journey. In all of these stories, food serves a purpose. For Wilbur and Bud, food was the way that kindness and caring could be communicated. Wilbur shared his food so Templeton would understand that he was making a bond between them. Bud was shown kindness by other people in the form of a bologna sandwich or a meatloaf dinner. Similarly, the presence of Max’s dinner waiting for him speaks to his mother’s kindness and concern. It seems as if food is often used in literature as a way for characters to come together and bond, to form relationships, to communicate, so it’s no surprise that it shows up so often in children’s literature. While children may not yet have the vocabulary or communication skills, they do understand the feelings evoked by someone giving them a sandwich when they’re hungry. I think it would be interesting to explore this topic more thoroughly.