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Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Curtis
Elijah of Buxton

Lauren P's review, August 16, 2007

Christopher Paul Curtis has created another masterpiece in the realm of children?s literature with his new novel, Elijah of Buxton. Like his previous books, Bud, Not Buddy and The Watson?s go to Birmingham ? 1963, Elijah of Buxton depicts the struggle of a young boy to understand and overcome the atrocities of racial injustice. Eleven-year-old Elijah Freeman takes readers on a journey to the final destination of the Underground Railroad, the Canadian settlement of Buxton. Like many contemporary children, Elijah enjoys a life of freedom characterized by normal childhood activities. As the first child born free to parents who were former slaves, Elijah is sheltered from the harsh realities of slavery. His only knowledge of slavery is obtained through secondhand accounts painfully recounted by residents of Buxton.

Young readers will laugh out loud as they accompany Elijah on hilarious adventures with Hoopsnakes, Moth Lions, and Chunking Stones. Students will feel empathy for Elijah as he realizes that he isn?t the brightest bulb in Mr. Travis?s class. Children struggling to grow into young adults will identify with the shame Elijah feels when he is teased and rebuked for being a ?fragile boy?. A vivid cast of characters peppers the book with spicy personality and captures the reader?s interest more effectively Elijah?s chunking stones capture fish. As Elijah interacts with former slaves, he realizes that the scars of slavery go deeper than the flesh. Elijah stumbles upon a hornet?s nest of human nature when he utters a racial slur which causes a former slave to attack him. Throughout the book, glimpses of racism periodically appear, but Curtis skillfully encourages the reader to befriend Elijah so neither the reader or Elijah will face the atrocity of slavery alone. When at last Elijah crosses the Detroit River into America and encounters slaves, the reader feels as if he or she is alongside Elijah, facing danger, feeling nauseous, and desperately searching for methods to free the trapped victims of slavery. As tears of empathy begin to roll down reader?s cheeks, they almost expect to find Elijah there beside them, identifying with their deep sorrow.

As a child who has faced bigotry firsthand, I felt inspired to become actively engaged in changing the world after reading Elijah of Buxton. Elijah Freeman?s courage reminds us that it?s not enough to merely be a survivor of hatred. As children we share a moral obligation to become ?conductors? of social change. Elijah of Buxton leaves readers with a universal truth understood by all groups who have been oppressed and enslaved; as long as Hope survives, a brighter tomorrow exists for future generations. I was deeply honored to be one of the first readers of this monumental book which chronicles the story of one boy?s journey into adulthood set against the backdrop of a peoples? journey into freedom. Librarians, teachers, parents and students, make room on your bookshelves for what is sure to become an award-winning classic!
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