Buddy Caldwell - Bud is the absolute soul of the novel. He is a little ten-year old African-American orphan boy who has seen and suffered through a great deal in his short ten years, but who is definitely a survivor. His determination to find his father and his ability to use his survival skills to do so make him a heroic character for the reader.
Mr. Herman E. Calloway - He is the band leader of a Depression Era Negro Band whom Bud believes is his father. He turns out to be a rather cranky old man who doesn’t trust Bud and acts mean to nearly everyone. He is actually a very sad man who yearns for the daughter he drove away with his need for her to be what he wanted her to be.
Angela Janet Caldwell - Although she has died before the story begins, her character is a very real presence for most of the other characters in the story. The lessons she taught Bud and his memories of her pervade the ideas of the plot and she seems as real as if she were interacting with the characters in the story.
Todd Amos and his parents - This is the foster family from whom Bud runs away after he is abused. They are typical of some foster families who would take in children just for the money the state would pay. They often mistreated them or at best, just ignored them. In this case, Todd is a terrible bully and his parents deny his behavior is anything other than that of a victim. As a result, Bud is punished for having been beaten up by the older boy. This is the catalyst that sets him on his journey to find his father.
Deza Malone - She is a young girl who teaches Bud how to do dishes in the cardboard jungle known as Hooverville. She gives him very wise advice about how to remember his mother and even gives him his first kiss, telling him she’ll see him seven years just like the characters in the song “Shenandoah.”
Lefty Lewis - This is the very kind black man who picks Bud up along the road to Grand Rapids. He takes him to his daughter’s home where he is fed and given clean clothes. He is a kind of courier who brings blood needed at hospitals and sneaks in union flyers to illegal organizations. He shows Bud basic kindness and compassion, two emotions he has felt little of in his life.
Miss Grace Thomas - She is the “vocal stylist” of Herman Calloway’s band. She knew and loved Bud’s mother and even before she knows Bud’s relationship to Mr. Calloway, she offers him a motherly love and comfort. Bud thinks she is very beautiful and the music that comes out of her mouth is something so special that he is dazed by it. She believes that Bud is a godsend.
Steady Eddie, The Thug, Dirty Deed, Doo-Doo Bug and Mr. Jimmy - These are the band members who tease Bud unmercifully, but also show him how to be a good and loving person. They buy him his own saxophone and give him a name in a secret ceremony that makes him one of them.
Bugs - He is one of the boys at the Home who was nicknamed Bugs, because he got a cockroach stuck in his ear. He claimed that he could hear the cockroach screaming as they pulled its legs off with the tweezers. He finds Bud and after swearing to be brothers, the two decide to ride the rails to Chicago. Unfortunately, fate intervenes and Bud is unable to get on the train and he loses track of Bugs.
Mrs. Sleet, Scott, and Kim - These are Lefty Lewis’ daughter and her children. She gives Bud a place to sleep and food to eat and shows him what a real family can be like.
Miss Hill - She was a librarian at the Flint Public Library BudNotBuddy01BudNotBuddy01who had befriended Bud when his mother was still alive. When he runs away, he thinks of her first as someone who can help him. Unfortunately, she has gotten married and moved to Chicago.
The man with the mouth organ - He is the first one Bud speaks to in Hooverville. He gives him information about what draws people to this little cardboard jungle and when the train will leave the next day.
Jerry Clark - He is the little boy who is being taken to a new foster home the same day Bud is being taken to the Amos home. He is only six and very afraid, but Bud, in spite of his own nervousness, takes the time to comfort the boy and explain why he will be going to good place. Jerry reminds Bud of himself when he was six and his mother died.