<B>A small-town girl's big-city dreams</B>To 12-year-old Pattie Mae Sheals, Uncle Buddy Bush is a man worthy of adoration: he's clever and handsome and not interested in the country ways of 1940s Rich Square, North Carolina. Buddy, who lived in Harlem for many years, knows there are places in America where black people don't have to enter a movie theater through the back door, places where confidence among African Americans is just as acceptable as deference.
Pattie Mae, heroine of Shelia P. Moses' new teen novel <B>The Legend of Buddy Bush</B>, lives with her mother and works hard, picking and chopping the cucumber, strawberry and cotton crops right alongside the grownups. She dreams of the day when she will live with her older sister in Harlem, where people have running water, and nobody lives in a former slave house. Shelia Moses, a poet and producer, as well as co-author of Dick Gregory's <I>A Callus on My Soul</I>, gives the character of Pattie Mae a singular warmth and humor. The child's love for her grandparents is palpable, and her observations of the relationships among her family members are wry and wise. Pattie Mae may be young, but she quickly realizes the implications of her uncle's wrongful arrest for attempting to rape a white woman, and she joins her family in their despair, confusion and fear. The story does end on a hopeful note, though, as she gets to take a trip up North. Lending heft to an already engrossing and affecting story, Moses includes a fascinating author's note at the novel's end. A native of Rich Square, North Carolina, she reveals that <B>The Legend of Buddy Bush</B> is based on a true story, and she includes photos of the people and places in her life that inspired the characters and settings. This section serves as the perfect grace note to a compelling composition. <I>Linda M. Castellitto writes from Rhode Island.</I>