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Elijah of Buxton (2007)

by Christopher Paul Curtis

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3,6041143,565 (4.12)76
In 1859, eleven-year-old Elijah Freeman, the first free-born child in Buxton, Canada, which is a haven for slaves fleeing the American south, uses his wits and skills to try to bring to justice the lying preacher who has stolen money that was to be used to buy a family's freedom.

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Funny and serious.
  VillageProject | Sep 19, 2023 |
The boys liked this book. They laughed out loud several times in the first half of the book. They were sad for the slaves that could not escape the barn in the second half. This book brought up a lot of good discussions. I enjoyed it also, although it was slow in spots. ( )
  Luziadovalongo | Jul 14, 2022 |
What an awesome book this is! Christopher Paul Curtis has a knack for capturing the in-between innocence mixed with growing understanding of the 11-13 age range. In many children's books, the things that the child characters imagine are always worse than reality, but Curtis's characters don't have this comfort. They have the joys and laughter of childhood, but their challenges are serious, not contrived by adults to educate, but actual and real.

Curtis also gives his characters ample time and opportunity to make mistakes, reflect, and grow, which I love.

Another slam-dunk selection from the Build Your Library booklist, Level 5. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Feb 3, 2021 |
  lcslibrarian | Aug 13, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 113 (next | show all)
Elijah Freeman, 11, has two claims to fame. He was the first child "born free" to former slaves in Buxton, a (real) haven established in 1849 in Canada by an American abolitionist. The rest of his celebrity, Elijah reports in his folksy vernacular, stems from a "tragical" event. When Frederick Douglass, the "famousest, smartest man who ever escaped from slavery," visited Buxton, he held baby Elijah aloft, declaring him a "shining bacon of light and hope," tossing him up and down until the jostled baby threw up-on Douglass. The arresting historical setting and physical comedy signal classic Curtis (Bud, Not Buddy), but while Elijah's boyish voice represents the Newbery Medalist at his finest, the story unspools at so leisurely a pace that kids might easily lose interest. Readers meet Buxton's citizens, people who have known great cruelty and yet are uncommonly polite and welcoming to strangers. Humor abounds: Elijah's best friend puzzles over the phrase "familiarity breeds contempt" and decides it's about sexual reproduction. There's a rapscallion of a villain in the Right Reverend Deacon Doctor Zephariah Connerly the Third, a smart-talking preacher no one trusts, and, after 200 pages, a riveting plot: Zephariah makes off with a fortune meant to buy a family of slaves their freedom. 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. Ages 9-12. (Oct.)
Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
added by sriches | editPublishers Weekly, Reed Business Information (Jul 22, 2009)
Krista Johansen (Resource Links, December 2007 (Vol. 13, No. 2))
It may surprise some to discover that Christopher Paul Curtis, who has both a Newbery Honor and a Newbery Medal to his credit, has actually lived in Canada for a quarter of a century. In Elijah of Buxton he sets a story in Canada West (soon to become Ontario) just before the time of the American Civil War. Elijah Freeman is the child of former slaves, the first baby born in the settlement of Buxton. He is a quick-witted, resourceful, and imaginative boy with strong reactions to what he sees going on around him and a wry, self-depreciating way of presenting himself. The book is a first-person narrative, and Elijah seems to be telling the story not long after it happened. He is no adult looking back on his past but still a young boy getting events clear in his mind. Curtis can be a very funny writer and some of the more subtle comedy in the story (and some of the more sombre moments too) arise from Elijah's failure to fully understand adults. Some of these may be lost on younger children, no more experienced than Elijah, on a first reading, but they benefit older readers. Through various episodes in Elijah's daily round of school, chores, fishing, and family life, the first part of the story introduces Elijah's character and his relationships with people like Mr. Leroy, who is saving money to buy his family's freedom, and the untrustworthy, self-proclaimed Preacher. It also depicts everyday life in Buxton and conveys the history and principles of this idealistic, successful settlement of people who had escaped slavery. Elijah's pranks and adventures and the stories of loss and courage his elders tell all weave a background full of interest for the story to come. The second part of the book is about Elijah's journey across the border into Michigan, accompanying Mr. Leroy, without his parents' knowledge. They are tracking down the Preacher, who has fled with money entrusted to him to free Mr. Leroy's family. Mr. Leroy suffers a heart attack and dies. Elijah continues his hunt alone, but finds instead four men, a woman, and a baby who had escaped slavery only to be recaptured almost within sight of the border. They are chained up naked in a barn. The Preacher's body is there as well; he has been killed and Mr. Leroy's money is long gone. Elijah is horrified by the reality of slavery seen firsthand - at first he did not even realize the people were human, but thought them ghosts or demons. He tries to get some free Africans in the neighbourhood to help him rescue them, but they refuse, fearing for their own safety. He returns to take a baby back to Buxton with him, saving at least that one life. The story is one of tragedy: the baby's parents and the other captives are likely to die, because although they cannot escape their chains, Mrs. Chloe has the Preacher's revolver, given to her by Elijah; Mr. Leroy's family is still enslaved, not even knowing their husband and father has died trying to save them. It is also one of hope and small, enduring victories, as Elijah brings the baby, Hope Too-mah-ee-nee, safely to Buxton. Elijah of Buxton is an excellent story, funny, suspenseful, and horrifying. The historical background is brought to life with great attention to detail and accuracy, while Elijah's role as a narrator examining himself and his world allows the unfamiliar to be explained in a natural and unobtrusive way. Elijah is a very realistic eleven-year-old who goes from being an ordinary boy dealing with everyday problems to a person facing a situation in which even an adult would have found himself helpless to do more. Though he calls himself fragile for his overwhelming emotional reactions to events, Elijah's courage, resilience and determination make him a hero. Elijah of Buxton will quite deservedly find a place in every elementary and middle-school library. In the classroom, it could be used in units studying this period in Canada's history, in examining the history of slavery and the Underground Railroad in North American, and as a portrayal of mid-nineteenth-century life in general.
added by kthomp25 | editResource Links,, Krista Johansen
Eleven-year-old Elijah Freeman is known for two things: being the first child born free in Buxton, Canada, and throwing up on the great Frederick Douglass. It's 1859, in Buxton, a settlement for slaves making it to freedom in Canada, a setting so thoroughly evoked, with characters so real, that readers will live the story, not just read it. This is not a zip-ahead-and-see-what-happens-next novel. It's for settling into and savoring the rich, masterful storytelling, for getting to know Elijah, Cooter and the Preacher, for laughing at stories of hoop snakes, toady-frogs and fish-head chunking and crying when Leroy finally gets money to buy back his wife and children, but has the money stolen. Then Elijah journeys to America and risks his life to do what's right. This is Curtis's best novel yet, and no doubt many readers, young and old, will finish and say, "This is one of the best books I have ever read." (author's note) (Fiction. 9+)
added by sriches | editKirkus Reviews
Floating up like a bubble through layers of history, buoyed with hope and comic energy…Elijah of Buxton tells the story of Elijah Freeman, the first freeborn child in the historic Elgin Settlement, a village of escaped slaves in Canada…As in his previous novels, Curtis is a master at balancing the serious and the lighthearted: as Langston Hughes said of the blues, "not softened with tears, but hardened with laughter." He has already received a Newbery medal and an honor for two novels rooted in the experience of black Americans: "The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 and Bud, Not Buddy. His latest book is another natural award candidate and makes an excellent case, in a story positively brimming with both truth and sense, for the ability of historical fiction to bring history to life.
added by sriches | editNew York Times



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To the original twenty-one former-slave settlers of the Elgin Settlement and Buxton Mission of Raleigh: Eliza, Amelia, Mollie, Sarah, Isaiah Phares, Harriet, Solomon, Jacob King, Talbert King, Peter King, Fanny, Ben Phares, Robin Phares, Stephen Phares, Emeline Phares, and Isaac and Catherine Riley and their four children. And to the Reverend William King and his love of justice.
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It was Sunday after church and all my chores were done.
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In 1859, eleven-year-old Elijah Freeman, the first free-born child in Buxton, Canada, which is a haven for slaves fleeing the American south, uses his wits and skills to try to bring to justice the lying preacher who has stolen money that was to be used to buy a family's freedom.

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Story of a boy who was born out of slavery and has to go to an area that has slavery.
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