Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Elijah of Buxton

ELIJAH OF BUXTON; Christopher Paul Curtis; New York: Scholastic, 2007; 341pp. Fiction

Elijah, first freeborn child in the Canadian settlement of Buxton, is best known for urping up on Frederick Douglass when he made an historic visit to the home of escaped former slaves, and for being a bit fra-gile--scared of snakes especially. As Elijah and his friend Cooter go about their business in Buxton--going to Mr. Travis' school class, riding ol' Flapjack, chunking rocks at the fish in the pond--weighty matters swirl around them. Escaped slaves are welcomed into the community; Mrs. Holton's husband John is beaten to death back in the States; Mr. Leroy sees a chance to buy his family out of slavery, but in his anxiety to proceed, he gives his money to the wrong man, and takes Elijah back into Detroit to help him find the Preacher and save the cash. As is true of all Christopher Paul Curtis' books, Elijah of Buxton, is laugh-aloud funny, filled with tenderness and a rich humanity, sacrifice, suffering, and love. The closing scenes of this remarkable novel are exquisitely tense and even brutal. Parents may wish to read the book themselves before sharing it with their children.

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