Monica's Reviews > Elijah of Buxton

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
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OVERALL RESPONSE

Elijah of Buxton really made me count my blessings. It is not only about slavery, but also about the different attitudes towards slavery. This story was the epitome of oppression all over the world-past and present. Effectively, the story is told in narrative form through the eyes of eleven-year-old Elijah, who is very smart. The book is a bit slow, but Elijah being the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada makes the story a very interesting read. Elijah's life of liberty on the settlement is an adventure in itself.

SPECIFICS

I think theme is a very important element in fiction books and this story has some big themes. However, some not-so desirable themes appear as well. Violence is certainly a theme in the story, although one could argue that violence was a sign of the times due to the setting of the book. Some examples in the story where violence appears are when Mr. Leroy hits Elijah in the mouth and he blacks out for a moment, and when Preacher is beaten, tortured, and left hanging by his arms in the barn after he is dead. Slavery, of course, is another big theme throughout the story. There are slaves in the U.S. trying to escape to Canada. Some are caught and taken back to their masters. Elijah of Buxton allows young adults to become more acquainted with the issues of slavery without being too intense. I think this especially works because the focus of the story is Elijah and how he grows up and the adventure he is drawn into. Consequently, we learn about others who have escaped a life of slavery and those who have tried to escape, but were unsuccessful. I think that some of the lessons in the book will be lost to young adults and they will just enjoy the story; however, for those who are a little more mature, they will learn that the price of freedom for some is great and for others it costs them everything. This book also has themes of discovery and coming of age. Elijah's character is honest, compassionate, and kind. Throughout the story, he discovers that he is also brave and that he can handle the most difficult situations. The author, Christopher Curtis, is popular for historical fiction for a good reason-he is great at it! He follows the rules. It is very important for authors of historical fiction to make their best attempt to ensure that their work is historically accurate; TMY makes this point as well. Just as important, though, is the setting- the setting should be convincing, otherwise, readers will cast doubt on the author's overall research. Curtis did another spectacular job of bringing us into the past through his writing. He has definitely mastered the balancing act challenge of good historical fiction writing.

CURRICULAR CONNECTIONS

I would probably use this book to teach the Underground Railroad. Students can compare and contrast reasons for using the Underground Railroad and write a letter to a friend convincing them to do the same. In addition, on National Geographic' s website, students are able to take a journey of the Underground Railroad and learn about the obstacles faced by the escaped slaves.

AWARDS

Newbery Honor (2008), Scott O'Dell Award (2008), Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production Honor (2009), Coretta Scott King Award for Author (2008), Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People (2008), Canadian Children’s Literature Award (2008)
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