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Elijah of Buxton

In his latest novel, the Newbury Awardwinning author Christopher Paul Curtis paints a memorable picture of life in 1849 in the black settlement of Buxton, Ontario. The reader follows the humorous yet suspenseful adventures of the gullible 11-year-old narrator, Elijah, in the newlyformed community that was a sanctuary for southern American slaves.

Related in a vivid, comical dialect, Elijah’s everyday routine exposes the relationships, personalities and values of the people of Buxton whose commonality is surviving slavery. The kind-hearted narrator is a celebrity of sorts as he is the first child born in Buxton, yet Elijah is plagued with the label of ‘fra-gile’— a label his mother constantly gives her only child.

It is important to note there are several violent, yet realistic, scenes which depict the brutal consequences endured by slaves. However, Curtis highlights that there is hope after such violence, as the villagers politely respect each other and their past painful experiences, no matter how tragic.

Christopher Paul Curtis shines as a fine storyteller. His compassionate novel is a suitable class read aloud for junior grades and intelligently challenges such an important historical event. Elijah of Buxton could inspire a class field trip or a website visit to Buxton National Historic Site and Museum to move beyond this rich novel.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Winter 2008. Vol.31 No.1.

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