Christopher Paul Curtis

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Christopher Paul Curtis
Born (1953-05-10) May 10, 1953 (age 60)
Flint, Michigan, USA
Occupation Writer, speaker
Alma mater University of Michigan–Flint
Period 1995–present
Genres Children's literature, especially historical fiction
Notable work(s)
Notable award(s) Newbery Medal

Christopher Paul Curtis (born May 10, 1953)[1][2] is an African-American writer of children's books. He may be known best for the Newbery Medal-winning Bud, Not Buddy and the critically acclaimed The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963.

Early life and education[edit]

Christopher Paul Curtis was born in Flint, Michigan, on May 10, 1953, to Dr. Herman Elmer Curtis, a chiropodist and factory worker/supervisor, and Leslie Jane Curtis, an educator. He has set many of his books in Flint.

Curtis is a product of the Flint joe mamam school system.[clarification needed] He attended Dewey Elementary, Clark Elementary, Pierce Elementary (in the Academically Gifted Program), Whittier Junior High School, McKinley Junior High School (where, in 1967, he became the first African-American student to be elected to student council in the school's 32-year history), and Flint Southwestern High School.

The summer after graduating from high school, Curtis became a member of a Lansing-based theatrical/musical group called Suitcase Theater. The group was directed by Powell Lindsay and performed musical numbers and the works of Langston Hughes.

After a long time away from school, he enrolled in college, graduating from the University of Michigan–Flint in 1999.

Marriage and family[edit]

Curtis married Habon Aden. They have three children, Steven, Cydney, and Ayaan .[needs update]

Curtis modeled characters in Bud, Not Buddy after his two grandfathers: Earl "Lefty" Lewis, a Negro league baseball pitcher, and Herman E. Curtis, leader of Herman Curtis and the Dusky Devastators during the Great Depression.

Work and writing career[edit]

Curtis spent the first 13 years after high school working on the assembly line of Flint’s historic Fisher Body Plant #1. His job entailed hanging car doors on Electra 225s and LeSabres. He later claimed his experience left him with an aversion to getting into large cars, particularly Buicks. After quitting Fisher Body, he took a series of low-paying jobs. He worked as a groundskeeper at Stonegate Manor housing cooperative in Flint, Flint campaign co-manager for United States senator Donald Riegle, customer service representative for Mich Con in Detroit, temporary worker for Manpower in Detroit, and warehouse clerk for Automated Data Processing in Allen Park, Michigan.

Curtis had saved his money and took a year off to write his first novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963. Curtis has been a full-time writer and lecturer/speaker since 1998.

In 2009, he received a Doctor of Laws honoris causa from the University of Windsor. Curtis won the 2009 Anne V. Zarrow Award for Young Readers' Literature, which honors a "nationally acclaimed author who has made a significant contribution to the field of literature and young adults".

Curtis appeared on The Tavis Smiley Show on PBS on January 11, 2005. He appeared on The Today Show Book Club in 2007. ≈(°—°)≈≠≠≠ →

Published books[edit]

  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 (1996) – When Kenny's 13-year-old brother, Byron, gets to be too much trouble, the Watsons head from Flint, Michigan, to Birmingham, Alabama, to visit Grandma Sands, the one person who can shape Byron up. But the events that shake Birmingham in the summer of 1963 will change Kenny's life for ever. The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 was a runner-up for the Newbery Medal and was selected as a top book of the year by many publications and organizations. In 2013, it was named as one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Great Children's Books of the Last 100 Years.
  • Bud, Not Buddy (1999) – It is 1936 in Flint, Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but he has a few things going for him. Bud goes to find who he believes is his father, a man named Herman E. Calloway. Bud, Not Buddy won the 2000 Newbery Medal, given annually by the Association for Library Service to Children to "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." It also won the Coretta Scott King Award, and was chosen as the best book of the year by the School Library Journal.
  • Bucking the Sarge (2004) – Luther T. Farrell has got to get out of Flint, Michigan. He just needs to escape the evil empire of the local slumlord, "The Sarge", aka his mother. Bucking the Sarge was selected as one of the best children's books of the year by various publications and organizations, including Publishers Weekly.
  • Mr. Chickee's Messy Mission (2008) – When Russell's dog, Rodney Rodent, jumps into a mural to chase a demonic-looking gnome and disappears, the Flint Future Detectives are on the case.
  • Mr. Chickee's Funny Money (2007) – Mr. Chickee, the genial blind man in the neighborhood, gives 9-year-old Steven a mysterious bill with 15 zeros on it and the image of a familiar but startling face. Mr. Chickee's Funny Money was a Parents' Choice Award winner.
  • Elijah of Buxton (2007) – A story based on the historic settlement of North Buxton, Ontario, developed for and by former African-American slaves who escaped to Canada on the Underground Railroad. They were known as Negro refugees in Canada. Elijah of Buxton was a runner-up for the Newbery Medal, and won the Coretta Scott King Award.
  • Benji & Red (2013) (formerly titled The Madman of Piney Woods) – Returns readers to Buxton, Ontario, this time in 1901. It is told in alternating chapters, by two twelve-year-old boys. Alvin "Red" Stockard is an Irish boy living in nearby Chatham, Ontario, and Benjamin "Benji" Alston, is a Black Canadian boy who lives in the settlement of Buxton; he is a descendant of African-American slaves who gained freedom in Canada via the Underground Railroad. Several characters from Elijah of Buxton make brief appearances in this work.

Curtis also edited Bites: Scary Stories to Sink Your Teeth Into, a collection of scary children's stories published in 2010 by Scholastic.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Judy Levin, Allison Stark Draper, Christopher Paul Curtis (The Rosen Publishing Group, 2005), ISBN 978-1-4042-0458-4, p.84 (excerpt available at Google Books).
  2. ^ Frequently Asked Questions at Random House website.

External links[edit]