Elijah of Buxton

Christopher Paul Curtis, Author
Christopher Paul Curtis, Author . Scholastic $16.99 (341p) ISBN 978-0-439-02344-3
Reviewed on: 09/10/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
Compact Disc - 8 pages - 978-0-7393-6719-3
Hardcover - 395 pages - 978-1-4104-0580-7
Prebound-Glued - 341 pages - 978-0-606-07493-3
Hardcover - 341 pages - 978-0-439-93647-7
Mass Market Paperbound - 341 pages - 978-0-439-02345-0
Downloadable Audio - 1 pages - 978-0-7393-6416-1
Compact Disc - 8 pages - 978-0-7393-6415-4
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-0-7393-7095-7
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-0-545-28119-5
Paperback - 978-0-545-11084-6
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Elijah Freeman, 11, has two claims to fame. He was the first child “born free” to former slaves in Buxton, a (real) haven established in 1849 in Canada by an American abolitionist. The rest of his celebrity, Elijah reports in his folksy vernacular, stems from a “tragical” event. When Frederick Douglass, the “famousest, smartest man who ever escaped from slavery,” visited Buxton, he held baby Elijah aloft, declaring him a “shining bacon of light and hope,” tossing him up and down until the jostled baby threw up—on Douglass. The arresting historical setting and physical comedy signal classic Curtis (Bud, Not Buddy ), but while Elijah's boyish voice represents the Newbery Medalist at his finest, the story unspools at so leisurely a pace that kids might easily lose interest. Readers meet Buxton's citizens, people who have known great cruelty and yet are uncommonly polite and welcoming to strangers. Humor abounds: Elijah's best friend puzzles over the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” and decides it's about sexual reproduction. There's a rapscallion of a villain in the Right Reverend Deacon Doctor Zephariah Connerly the Third, a smart-talking preacher no one trusts, and, after 200 pages, a riveting plot: Zephariah makes off with a fortune meant to buy a family of slaves their freedom. Curtis brings the story full-circle, demonstrating how Elijah the “fra-gile” child has become sturdy, capable of stealing across the border in pursuit of the crooked preacher, and strong enough to withstand a confrontation with the horrors of slavery. The powerful ending is violent and unsettling, yet also manages to be uplifting. Ages 9-12. (Oct.)

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