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Elijah of Buxton [Kindle Edition]

Christopher Paul Curtis
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Master storyteller Christopher Paul Curtis's Newbery Honor novel, featuring his trademark humor, unique narrative voice, and new cover art--now in paperback!

Eleven-year-old Elijah lives in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves near the American border. He's the first child in town to be born free, and he ought to be famous just for that. Unfortunately, all that most people see is a "fra-gile" boy who's scared of snakes and talks too much. But everything changes when a former slave steals money from Elijah's friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Now it's up to Elijah to track down the thief--and his dangerous journey just might make a hero out of him, if only he can find the courage to get back home.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 704 KB
  • Print Length: 364 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0439023440
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (1 Sept. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008555CBY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #664,879 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic childrens literature 22 April 2011
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great for children of an age to be interested in the world around them and how it is affected by recent history - worth the time of adult readers too
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  121 reviews
62 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buxton bound 10 Oct. 2007
By E. R. Bird - Published on
The Author's Note of "Elijah of Buxton" begins with a statement on the part of author Christopher Paul Curtis declaring that when you ask authors what their favorite published work is, they'll generally hem and haw and refuse to select just one title. Not Mr. Curtis. Unlike these writers, he has no qualms about selecting the book he has always loved the most (it's "The Watsons go to Birmingham", in case you were curious). Now ask a librarian what his or her favorite Christopher Paul Curtis title is. Go on. The answer is going to be interesting. Some might play the hem and haw game, but many will burst out with their favorites without hesitation. The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963! Bud, Not Buddy! Mr. Chickee's Funny Money! One or two brave souls might even select his teen novel on the sly. Not me, of course. My favorite Curtis novel is "Elijah of Buxton ", no question. And when I am old and grey I will claim that it was my favorite right from the start, publication dates be damned. To my mind "Elijah" is an example of everything Curtis does well. His historical research is superior. His characters heartwarming. His prose funny and heart-wrenching in turns. Plus, any book where a character is famous for having upchucked onto Frederick Douglass when he was a baby is worth its weight in gold. Be prepared to meet your favorite Christopher Paul Curtis book as well.

Elijah Freeman's known for two things. First and foremost, he was the first child born free in the Elgin Settlement at Raleigh in Canada West (better known as Buxton). Second, when he was a baby he barfed all over the great Frederick Douglass. That's the kind of stuff no one ever lets you forget when you grow up in a town as small as Buxton. Populated entirely by escaped slaves and their children in 1860, Buxton residents make it their business to help new arrivals any way they can. Described as "fragile" because he cries easily, Elijah has a hard time convincing anyone that he's ready to be a man. But that's before Mr. Leroy, his friend, gets enough money to buy his family. Before he trusts that money to the slick-talking preacher in town. Before the preacher disappears with the money somewhere in Michigan and Mr. Leroy wants Elijah to come with him to track the double-crosser down. And before Elijah must puzzle through and come to terms with a decision that means life or death.

When it comes to writing, doff your hat to Mr. Curtis. The history of Buxton was what really hooked me from the start. As the Author's Note in the back points out, Buxton was a real place and it thrived and survived beautifully. Economically self-sustaining with an enviable school system, the place was practically custom made for a children's novel. And the more I learned about the place, the more I wanted to learn. I wouldn't be shocked if next year we see a crop of fine Buxton-related non-fiction children's titles sweeping the marketplace. As for Curtis's subject matter, not only does he go in for great settings, Curtis tackles a wide array of issues that might catch you off-guard. When Elijah uses the n-word around a former slave (and his superior) the response is swift and furious. The piece undoubtedly is speaking as much to Elijah as it is to kids today, but when a discussion of this sort fits the story and doesn 't feel hammered into place, you don't have to label it as necessarily didactic. Elijah's such an interesting character too. On the one hand, he's just your average eleven-year-old troublemaker. And sometimes (probably more often for the adult reader, than for the child) he's a little more dense than you'd like. How often does one meet a heroic and not entirely with it hero, though?

I also enjoyed the little observations slipped within the text that come up with situations that are immediately understandable. Things like, "I learnt a long time ago that when you're smelling something real good, you only get two or three first-place smells of it afore your nose won't take no more notice." Words and language play an important part in the book. For example, a particularly frightening doll owned by a fellow student is labeled "terrorific " in Elijah's eyes. Best of all, there's humor, as seen when discussing the aptitude many former slaves have for storytelling and exaggeration. Elijah mentions that, "They'll tell you I throwed up on Mr. Douglass for a whole half a hour afore Ma come and snatched me away and pointed me out the schoolhouse window. They say I near drownded the man." I'd write more but it gets kind of gross after that point. "Elijah" kind of reminded me of those old Robert Peck "Soup" books. Same mischief and confusion. Same high spirits and fun. The section where poor Cooter (Elijah's best friend) comes to believe that the day's lesson "Familiarity Breeds Contempt" is going to be dirty has all the markings of a classic.

One person I spoke to about "Elijah" mentioned that the book hopped about from story to story too much for her tastes. She didn't feel that Curtis had created an adequate linear narrative, choosing instead to leapfrog between incidents and occurrences. To my mind this was a very purposeful move on Curtis's part. The first half of the book (at least) does indeed show a variety of different interactions and happenstances between the residents of the town and Elijah. Then, as you grow to know them, you better understand the final thrust of the novel. From page 181 or so onward, the book's plot becomes less flexible and more straightforward. I would argue that you need the fun early chapters, in part because they contain small details and incidents that grow in importance as you continue to read the story. They also happen to make the book fun and interesting right from the start. Jump into the seriousness that marks the latter half early on and you end up playing your hand too soon, scaring off potential readers.
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lauren's Review of Elijah of Buxton 14 Aug. 2007
By Mr. Jayson D. Pankin - Published on
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!
29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lively story and great combo with Trouble Don't Last 30 Oct. 2007
By Marcia Lindberg - Published on
Once again, Curtis has written a lively, funny story with important and interesting history underneath. Many schoolkids study slavery and the Underground RR--this book provides a glimpse of "what happens next?"

This title would be a great follow-up/companion book to Shelley Pearsall's Trouble Don't Last--a first person narrative like this one--which follows a young boy (not unlike Elijah) who is trying to escape to Canada on the Underground RR. Many kids who read that book want to know what happens to Samuel in Canada? What kind of a life do the former slaves create? Do their hopes and dreams become reality? Curtis' book takes readers there.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buxton's worth a trip 12 Feb. 2008
By Reading is my hobby - Published on
I'll tell you upfront I'm a fan of Christopher Paul Curtis, and his young and "fra-gile" (read gullible and easily scared) hero Elijah is my favorite.

If I have any criticism, it is that ELIJAH OF BUXTON Is a bit slow starting, but once the author hits his stride, watch out! Those who read this book will learn a lot about slavery and its after effects. By turns hilarious and heart-breaking, children who read it will realize that even the most "fra-gile" boy is capable of being a hero, and helping to make the world a better place.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read probably better for 11 or 12 and up 18 Aug. 2010
By B. Hendry - Published on
A book that has won four awards, Elijah of Buxton tells of a time when Elijah Freeman begins to change from boy to man. In 1860 Buxton is a settlement of former slaves from the United States. Buxton is located in Canada not too far from Detroit, Michigan. Elijah has many boyish adventures at school and the woods around town. However, the presence of slavery in the United States haunts the town with fears that men will come to force the townspeople back into slavery.
Elijah of Buxton has memorable characters. Elijah Freeman is the main character in a story that tells about events when he was eleven. The son of former slaves, Elijah is known in town as the first free child born in Buxton, Canada. He is a good boy with a lot of fears and anxiety. His mother calls him "fra-gile" because of his fears and strong emotions. Elijah is adventurous and skilled at hunting and fishing, and by the end of the book he shows an inner strength and determination that will make his parents stop calling him "fra-gile." Elijah is responsible and easy to like. He seems a little too easy to fool, however. The Preacher is a fast-talking, strange man who is a little too slick to be completely trustworthy. He attempts and sometime succeeds at some very grand plans, but you always wonder if his plans will backfire. Mr. Leroy is an extremely hard worker who hopes to buy his family from their owner in Virginia. He takes a risk to bring his family back sooner, and Mr. Leroy's plans get Elijah tangled up in a dangerous journey. Elijah's mother and father are good, sensible parents who do their best to raise Elijah right. They will be surprised at the daring of their "fra-gile" boy.
I enjoyed Elijah's adventures in school and the woods around town. It reminded me of when I was his age and could roam the woods in our neighborhood and something was always going on at my school. Some of the stories are funny, such as the boys misunderstanding of the phrase "familiarity breeds contempt." This books does is excellent at showing how slavery damaged your emotions and scarred your mind as well as body. Slaves live in constant fear, a fear that never really goes away even when they escape to freedom because of the threat of being kidnapped by slavers and brought back to the United States. Mr. Leroy makes a powerful impression on Elijah as to why he should not use ugly words to describe his own people. Freedom becomes the most important thing to many slaves and can even be more important than family.
This book has a heavy use of the way that the townspeople probably talked back then. It might be called colloquial or maybe slang language. This probably required a lot of work from the author to make it seem authentic, and it adds flavor to the reading. The exaggeration and fantastic tales that former slaves seem prone to tell reminds me of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. I wonder if living a life with extremes of mental and physical pain makes them more likely to make things seem more fantastic.
I think that this book might be better recommended for students in middle years. It has some grim scenes and implied violence. A reader needs to accept that you have to adjust to how the townspeople talked, but that makes it seem more genuine. A little effort makes it easier to learn to read the slang. A 4th or 5th grader should be prepared to ask questions from adults in order to understand this book.
One message of Elijah of Buxton is that slavery was horrible and very damaging to society. The former slaves were damaged and in a way the slave owners were damaged as well because they could become cruel. For example, Mr. Leroy shows Elijah his brand. Mr. Leroy and tells Elijah that the owner of his family would probably charge double to sell the wife and children to Mr. Leroy because of spite.
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