Book Review- Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
Curtis, Christopher Paul. 2007. Elijah of Buxton. New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN 978-0439-02344-3
B. Plot Summary
Elijah Freeman is the first child of slave descent born free in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves. Deemed a “fra-gile” child by his mother, Elijah sets out to prove himself on a mission to retrieve stolen money. The thief had taken the money from Elijah’s friend who had been saving to free his family from slavery in the south. Throughout his dangerous mission into America, Elijah experiences firsthand the atrocities of slavery and the horrors of his parents’ former life. From “fra-gile” boy to resourceful young man, Elijah transforms as he tries to get back home.
C. Critical Analysis
Christopher Paul Curtis is a Newbery Medal Winner for a previous historical novel. In Elijah of Buxton, Curtis uses the same vivacious, full-of-life writing to tell the tale of Elijah Freeman. Curtis weaves facts about the Buxton settlement-see author’s note for more information-with fictional characters to create an entertaining, educational story.
The story is told through Elijah’s perspective, allowing young readers to connect. Mixed into the deep content of slavery, there are humorous moments that lift the reader’s spirit. For readers who enjoy an action-packed adventure and vibrant characters, Elijah of Buxton is a great read.
D. Review Excerpts and Awards
· Publisher’s Weekly review: “Curtis brings the story full-circle, demonstrating how Elijah the "fra-gile" child has become sturdy, capable of stealing across the border in pursuit of the crooked preacher, and strong enough to withstand a confrontation with the horrors of slavery. The powerful ending is violent and unsettling, yet also manages to be uplifting.”
· Starred review from Booklist: “Many readers drawn to the book by humor will find themselves at times on the edges of their seats in suspense and, at other moments, moved to tears.”
E. Connections and Classroom Activities
· Using teacher approved websites (such as nationalgeographic.com), students can take a webquest to learn more about the Underground Railroad. Then, the students can compose a fictional composition about their own experience travelling through the Underground Railroad in search of freedom.
· Also by Christopher Paul Curtis:
o The Watsons Go to Birmingham- 1963. ISBN 044022800
o Bud, Not Buddy. ISBN 0440413281