Curtis, Christopher Paul. (2007). Elijah of Buxton. New York: Scholastic.
Textbook Chapter: 8
Subgenre: Historical Fiction
Possible Curriculum Connections: Middle school social studies unit on slavery and the Underground Railroad.
Elijah of Buxton is a novel set in Buxton, Canada, which is located right on the border of Michigan and Canada. The novel is set prior to the Civil War, when slavery in the United States was a big business. Elijah Freeman was the first free child born in the settlement of Buxton, and he was 11 years old at the time that the book takes place. The story is about Elijah and his interactions with the other people in his community. Frederick Douglass visited Buxton when Elijah was a baby, and he played a large role in the development of the settlement. Elijah works for a man named Mr. Leroy who is trying to buy his wife and children out of slavery in the United States. When Mr. Leroy is given a gift of money, a crooked preacher offers to take the money and go get Mr. Leroy's family. However, the preacher ends up running off with the money and uses it for gambling. Elijah and Mr. Leroy go and try to find the preacher to either get the money back or kill him. However, Mr. Leroy dies on the journey, and Elijah finds out the preacher has been killed as well. In the end, Elijah finds a group of runaway slaves that are being held captive, and he tries to help them escape into Canada. He cannot help the adults be free, but he ends up taking a baby girl with him back to Buxton so that she can grow up free.
Personal Reaction/ Why Teens would want to read this book:
I thought the beginning of this book was a little slow and difficult to follow. The dialect that the author uses in his writing was tough for me to pick up on at first, but as I read more, it got easier. It is also a pretty long book, as it is about 350 pages. However, after the first few chapters, I started to really enjoy the book. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and the book gave an interesting perspective about the Underground Railroad in Canada. I think that this book would be great for a middle school library. There is nothing inappropriate about the story, and the writing is geared more for the younger teen. The main character is 11, so younger teens would probably be able to relate more to him than high school students. Overall, I thought this was a good book that could easily be integrated into a social studies unit about slavery and the Underground Railroad. I have read Curtis's book, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 which I think I enjoyed even more than this novel. However, Curtis is a great historical fiction author!