Rave Reviews Log: Historical Fiction

October 22, 2007

Elijah of Buxton

By Christopher Paul Curtis
Era: 1860 Canada
Rating: 4 1/2 stars
Reviewed by Noelle

Curtis brings us his best novel since the Newbery Award winning Bud Not Buddy. Elijah is the first freeborn child in the settlement of Buxton in Canada, famed for welcoming escaped slaves into its ranks. We learn a lot about Elijah, and he is considered "fra-gile" for being easily "terror-ified" or upset by just about anything. But he is also loyal and good-hearted as he goes about his life, attending school, playing tricks with his friend Cooter, or fishing in the pond. We also learn a good deal about the supportive community in the settlement, where many folk are trying to earn money to buy their family members from slavery in America. A fellow who goes by the name of "The Preacher" lives just outside the settlement, and Elijah has many a run in with him where he isn't quite sure if the Preacher is trying to trick him or if he is a good guy. Then Mr. Leroy gets a windfall of money that is enough to buy his whole family out of slavery. In a frenzy to get his family, Mr. Leroy trusts his money to the Preacher to go to America and arrange their purchase. But when it is discovered that the Preacher has made off with the funds instead, it is up to Mr. Leroy and Elijah to find him and make things right again. Can a 11 year old freeborn boy help make a difference? This is a unique story about an unusual place and time in history. Curtis hits all the right notes in this story, which ranges from laugh out loud funny to sobering to horrifying to hopeful as Elijah begins to grow up and face his heritage and his future. A big thumbs up for this winner, which will have readers chuckling in the first chapter and tearful in the last.