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Elijah of Buxton

Review

Elijah of Buxton

Elijah has a good life in Buxton, the Canadian settlement that is a refuge for runaway slaves and their children. He and his best friend, Cooter, go to school, attend church, do chores and think up elaborate pranks, such as putting a huge "toady-frog" in his mother's knitting bag. Of course, sometimes the pranks get turned on them. Elijah's mother is able to exact revenge; a town visitor known as the Right Reverend Deacon Doctor Zephariah Connerly the Third, or "the Preacher," preys on Elijah's fear of snakes with wild tales about vicious rolling hoop snakes.

The truth is, Elijah is sensitive. His mother calls him "fra-gile." Riding horses terrifies him, and it doesn’t take much for him to cry. When he practices his special skill of killing fish by throwing rocks at them, the Preacher easily talks him out of much of his catch. Elijah's sensitivity is put to the test when he must deliver sad news to a neighbor. Will he be able to fully realize what the moment means while not breaking down?

The story takes another deeper, darker turn when one freed slave sends a man to buy his family's freedom. When the situation goes awry, Elijah finds himself on a quest to set things right. In his attempt, he faces devastating circumstances and decisions. His actions will prove his mettle. Is he up to the task, or is he too fragile to cope?

Elijah's coming-of-age story is a powerful page-turner, full of humor, adventure, heartbreaking sorrow and buoyant promise. It also introduces the reader to a fascinating (and little known) time and place in our history. Loose threads are not woven together into a tidy ending, yet the climax serves up a satisfying uplift of hope and triumph.

There are storytellers, and then there are Storytellers; it’s no surprise that Christopher Paul Curtis, winner of numerous awards for his fiction (including the prestigious Newbery Medal), qualifies for that capital letter. It is, as always, an honor and a pleasure to lose oneself in one more mesmerizing tale from him.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on August 6, 2007

Elijah of Buxton
by Christopher Paul Curtis

  • Publication Date: August 6, 2007
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • ISBN-10: 0439023440
  • ISBN-13: 9780439023443