Elijah of Buxton

by Christopher Paul Curtis

Just over the Canadian border from Detroit, Buxton is a small town established by... read more

Just over the Canadian border from Detroit, Buxton is a small town established by runaway slaves. Eleven-year-old Elijah was the first free child born in Buxton and feels certain he’ll never live down the moment in infancy when he threw up on famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass. It’s hard for Elijah to fully comprehend the horrors his parents and other adults escaped; they are spare with their stories, clearly wanting to protect their children. Elijah is such a sensitive child that his parents are more determined than most to shelter him from harsh truths. But when a man known as Preacher steals the money a neighbor was saving to purchase his wife and children’s freedom, Elijah is determined to make things right. He follows Preacher over the border, not wholly innocent of the danger, but clearly far from comprehending its depth. Elijah’s openhearted, first-person voice is often funny and always forthright as he describes the adventures of a boy growing up in Buxton, and coming of age on a journey that exposes him to evidence of the darkest side of humanity. At first Elijah does not fully understand the significance of the facts before him as the harsh and harrowing truth about slavery is revealed. But as comprehension begins to dawn, he draws on knowledge of the best of humanity, rooted in his experiences as a member of a sensitive and caring community, to strengthen his courage and resolve. Christopher Paul Curtis has penned a remarkable novel that is both humorous and heartrending. Some readers may struggle at first with the mid-nineteenth century dialect in which Elijah tells his story, but the rewards are worth the challenge. (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2008

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