Written By: Christopher Paul Curtis
For parents of independent readers, we provide a set of questions that should give you insight into what your child is reading and help you engage him/her in meaningful conversations about literature. We recommend using the questions provided here as a springboard for deeper conversation about The Mighty Miss Malone and what your child takes away from the book. Enjoy!
“We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful.” That is the Malone family motto, perfectly describing the journey that 12 year-old Deza Malone’s family embarks on in The Mighty Miss Malone. When work becomes scarce in Gary, Indiana, Deza’s father leaves home in search for employment to give his family a better life. It isn’t long before her mother, grows tired of waiting and decides that the family should follow him to Flint. Upon their arrival, they are unable to find Father and are forced to stay in a shantytown camp. In this raid, Dezra’s brother, Jimmie, escapes to Detroit and becomes a musician. Jimmie sends back money to Deza and Mother, which they believe is from Father. They eventually find him in a poorhouse, filthy and downtrodden, and discover that he intended to die there alone because he was unable to find employment. Mother and Deza bring him home and on the final page of the book, they catch a glimpse of the man that he was once and could be again. Highlighting the financial hardships and racial tensions that existed during the Great Depression, The Mighty Miss Malone demonstrates how a family can overcome all the odds and survive despite incredible obstacles.
- What do you think makes a person mighty? How do you see Deza being mighty in this story? What makes you a mighty person?
- The Malone family faces a lot of problems because of the color of their skin. How does their race affect the way that they must behave or the way people treat them?
- Why is the boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling so important to Father?
- Why do you think Jimmie led Mother and Deza to believe that the letters and money were coming from Father?
- Who are Mrs. Needham and how would you describe her relationship with Deza? In what ways does she help Deza throughout the story?
- Family is an incredibly important theme in this story. How do the members of the Malone family support and help each other? How do the members of our family support each other?
- This story takes place during the Great Depression. To learn more about this time in American history, check out resources like these on historical events and race relations during this period.
Above all, be sure to engage your child in a discussion about the plot line and his/her thoughts and feelings about the book. Ask what s/he likes, encourage exploration related to the book, and every now and again, offer to read parts of the book aloud, just for fun!