Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Elijah of BuxtonWow! What can I say about Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis without trivializing it? This years Newbery Honor book was amazing! I haven’t read Good Masters, Sweet Ladies! but it must have been “amazing-er” as Elijah of Buxton was spectacular. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and if you haven’t, well, you should.

Eleven year old Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves barely over the border from the United States. Elijah, who has only known the comforts of life that freedom gives him spends most of his day fishing, playing, going to school, riding a mule, and doing chores which he actually doesn’t mind. His Mother calls him a “fra-gile” boy who gets all “afeard and shake-ity.” He wishes people would stop calling him a baby and treat him like an adult, although he freely admits that doesn’t understand the secret code in which adults talk (in which they talk around the situation, instead of about it).

In the first half of the book, we get to know Elijah’s family and the other characters of the book. Curtis also paints the reader a clear picture of what life is like for runaway slaves and how the community embraces newcomers to help them adjust. We see the anguish and hardships and hear some of the stories from former slaves. We also see the hope that many have as they work hard to save enough money to buy their families freedom.

It is this kind of work and saved money that instigates the books climax as a man in the community steals another man’s money and Elijah feels as though it’s his fault. He sets out and crosses over to America to confront and capture this man. While doing so, he discovers first hand the horrors of slavery, comes to truly understands his privileged life, and proves that maybe he’s not so “fra-gile” after all.

This book was a delight to read. Written in dialect it was fun to really go back in time and hear the voices. Perhaps this passage is not the funnest example of the dialect in the book, but I liked what it said:

I could understand part of the reason. Pa’s always telling me how being in America is unbelievable hard for slaves. He says it seems don’t no one get out of America without paying some terrible cost, withoug having something done permanent to ‘em, without having something cut off of ‘em or burnt into ‘em r et up inside of ‘em.

Maybe that’s why when growned folks see comeone who’s long-lost, they don’t get riled ’bout it much as a young person would. Maybe it ain’t nothing but being afeared they’re gonna have to hear about all the bad things the person they loved had went through whilst knowing there waren’t nothing they could do ’bout it. Maybe all the sad things ‘neath the scars and burns and the pieces that were missing off of their kin were stories best not looked at too hard.

This thinking like a growned person was starting to be sensical.

Doggone-it-all.

Visit Christopher Paul Curtis’ website here.

19 comments


  1. I’m reading this right now! But I am a slooow reader, so it will be some time before we can swap notes. Hahaha!

    Have a great weekend, Natasha. :o )

    on March 29th, 2008 at 5:20 am
  2. I have to stop reading your blog. You’re inflating my reading list! ;P

    on March 29th, 2008 at 6:45 am
  3. Well! I guess I have to read this now! I lived on Buxton St for 15 years – I think it’s a sign.

    on March 29th, 2008 at 8:42 am
  4. Yeah, I thought this one was great, too. I’m going to have my kids read it someday when we get back to that part of American history.

    on March 29th, 2008 at 8:53 am
  5. Tarie – I look forward to your review! Oh, and I’d love to go the Phillipines! Yeah for internet friends!

    Stella – He, he.

    Raych – Yes, read it!

    Sherry – I thought this book did a good job illustrating the horrors of slavery without being to graphically detailed. It’s perfect for children, they’ll get the idea without getting scared.

    on March 29th, 2008 at 10:19 am
  6. Great review! Sounds intriguing.

    Thanks for your comment on my blog and I was looking at your comment on Becky’s site (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). Read Lewis THIS year! Don’t wait any longer!!! =D You won’t regret it.

    on March 29th, 2008 at 1:59 pm
  7. I have to admit, the title and cover art don’t have me grabbing for this book, but I’ve heard such wonderful things that I know I need to add this to my list. Thanks for your review!

    on April 1st, 2008 at 7:44 am
  8. great book ilove it

    on May 20th, 2008 at 4:49 am
  9. You paint an interesting picture of this book. I must read it now even though I have a dozen on my shelf screaming for my time. Thank you for your review.

    on May 30th, 2008 at 4:02 pm
  10. Thanks for the comments. Keep them coming. And I’ll repent and read Lewis this year (or maybe next!).

    on June 4th, 2008 at 12:15 am
  11. I finally got around to this one after reading your recommendation a few months ago. Loved it! That excerpt from the book you quoted is so moving. I loved that part.

    on July 22nd, 2008 at 8:36 am
  12. i love the book elijah of buxton it was so intresting my teacher read it to us in fifth grade it was so cool.

    on September 25th, 2008 at 8:27 am
  13. This book was great, it was full of history from the 1800′s during the slavery times, and you get to live and experience the life of a young boy named Elijah Freeman who proves himself to be more than a child. Its great, has a few humorous chips, and makes you want to keep on reading. It may bore you the first 4-5 chapters, but soon you will be excited by the climax and ending. Great! 5 Stars.

    on February 5th, 2009 at 6:41 am
  14. i love your books. my 5th grade class do to

    on March 10th, 2009 at 5:59 pm
  15. its a pretty good book and ima young black girl. yall really should read this.

    on March 21st, 2009 at 2:35 pm
  16. [...] to my intellectual interests too.  A few weeks ago we picked out Christopher Curtis‘ novel Elijah of Buxton.  I have just finished it and am ready to pass it to my son.  I can’t wait for him to dig [...]

    on March 21st, 2009 at 4:30 pm
  17. the book is awesome i just finished it was for a summer school project

    on August 9th, 2009 at 9:39 am
  18. I think this is the greatest book I have rrad in a long time. I have been telling people to read this book

    on December 2nd, 2009 at 8:55 pm
  19. i am in middle school right now, and we had to read a hostorical fiction book. my teacher gave us a bunch of books to pick from and i picked this one. i recommend this book to anyone. it is a VERY good book. i will also warn you that Elijah doesn’t have the best lanuage. and i don’t mean that he throws out the “F boom”. no he doesn’t at all. i mean he can’t spell the greatest. you get used to it though. its a very good book thought (:

    on March 31st, 2010 at 7:08 pm

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