Twelve year old Deza Malone in Christopher Paul Curtis’ The Mighty Miss Malone is exactly what the title of the book implies—she is mighty! The daughter of two proud and honorable black parents living in Gary, Indiana during the Great Depression, Deza is the smartest girl in her class, receiving special lessons from her beloved teacher who has pegged her for greatness. When her beloved father loses his job he secretly slips away to seek employment outside of Gary. Deza, her older yet much smaller brother, Jimmie, and her mother leave Gary to look for him. Throughout the book, Deza and her family struggle to stay together during a time in history when families were routinely torn apart. The Malone’s prove their strength though by never losing faith that they will eventually be reunited.
Christopher Paul Curtis creates a true gem in the character of Deza Malone. She is unabashedly intelligent, but humble enough to accept and internalize criticism. She openly admits to having a “bad brain” which tries to make her do devious things she knows are wrong, but which still tempt her. She is unknowingly amusing, simply through her honest approach to life. Her character is believable, inspiring, and completely lovable.
While the story may take place roughly 80 years ago, the many lessons it teaches remain relevant today, including but not limited to the value of honesty, the humility of living with less, the effect of kindness, and the importance of families supporting each other.
If you could not already tell, I relished every page of this book. Readers who enjoy this book might also enjoy Bud, Not Buddy by the same author, Christopher Paul Curtis, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Scott Taylor, or Wonder by R. J. Palacio.