Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Historic Fiction: Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Bibliographic data
Curtis, Christopher Paul. Elijah of Buxton. Read by Mirron Willis.
Book: Scholastic Inc., New York, 2007.
Audio: Listening Library, New York, 2008. ISBN: 978-073937095-7

Brief plot summary
Elijah has lived his whole life in Buxton, a settlement in Canada for runaway slaves. In this story by Christopher Paul Curtis, we follow Elijah through many hilarious and touching tales and straight into a life or death mission to save a group of slaves.

Critical analysis
In Elijah of Buxton, Christopher Paul Curtis has found the perfect blend of humor and seriousness. Elijah is the first free born person in the settlement of Buxton. Many expectations are on his shoulders, but he cannot help that he is a “fra-gile” boy. Curtis has taken a part of American history that is hard for many kids to relate to, and brought in stories that will have the students laughing out loud and others that will bring a tear to their eye. He is a rock fishing, fragile, understanding boy who has grown up around people who still have the physical and emotional scars of slavery. Although he has heard the stories, Elijah has never experienced what it is like to be on the other side until he is “kidnapped”. Partnered to read the book, Mirron Wilson does a beautiful job. With the accents, speed, and ability to convey the mood of the moment, he was the perfect person to read Elijah of Buxton.

Review excerpts
a. Booklist- “A fine, original novel from a gifted storyteller.”
b. AudioFile- “Mirron Willis delivers depth of emotion as he shapes the story's rhythms and pacing.”
Newberry Honor Book
Coretta Scott King Award
Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction
Canadian Library Association, Book of the Year
Finalist, Governor General’s Literary Award
An American Library Association Notable Booke.

A. Related Books: Nightjohn by Gary Paulson
B. Activities: After reading Elijah of Buxton, pairs of students could write other adventures for Elijah. You could also analyze the different forms of conflict involved in each chapter.

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