This is the first of Chirtopher Paul Curtis' books that I predict my nine and ten year old students could handle on their own. The themes aren't as heavy as his other novels, and the content is totally appropriate for late elementary school kids. The voice of the narrator, though, is very reminiscent of Bud (not Buddy) and Kenny (from the Watsons go to Birmingham). Phrases like "crying like a kindergarten baby" made me fondly remember those other two narrators.
In this story old, blind Mr. Chickee gives young Steven a very large bill that looks like genuine US mint. The ensuing cascade of events take Steven, his family, and his friends on a wild adventure that ends in tragic comedy. The plot could be a comic book for all its wild turns and exaggerated characters, including a talking dictionary. There's also some very fascinating clues centered on true information about James Brown, The Godfather of Soul.
Can't wait for the paperback edition so I can assign it to reading groups!