Set during the Great Depression, "Bud, Not Buddy" by Christopher Paul Curtis is about a 10-year-old African American child named Bud Caldwell who was orphaned after the loss of his mother four years before. Believing Herman E. Calloway, a famous musician, is his father because of posters his mother left him, Bud sets out on his own to find Calloway.
At the beginning of the story, Bud is living in an orphanage in Flint, Michigan. All he has left of his mother is a blanket, a few labelled rocks, a photograph of his mother and posters of Herman E. Calloway and his band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression. Bud's mother never told him who his father was, but Buddy believes the posters are a clue. Bud is sent to a foster home, but after getting teased by his foster parents' son, he decides to leave.
Bud's initial plan is to hop a train out of Flint, Michigan to Grand Rapids, the city advertised on the posters of Calloway and his band. When Bud misses the train, he decides to walk the entire way. On his journey, Bud meets several characters who help Bud reach his destination, including Lefty Lewis who eventually drives him to Grand Rapids. Upon reaching Grand Rapids, Bud is treated with animosity by Herman E. Calloway, who Bud later learns is not his father, but his maternal grandfather.
The book touches upon themes of racism and finding new paths opportunities after another is lost.