Thursday, January 24, 2008

Elijah of Buxton

Curtis, Christopher Paul. 2007. ELIJAH OF BUXTON. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0439023440 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-9]

Set in Canada in the free community of Buxton, ELIJAH OF BUXTON tells the story of a settlement of ex-slaves and their freedom-born children. Elijah, for example, was the first “free child” born in Buxton. The book even recounts the ‘legendary’ celebration where Elijah as an infant threw up on Frederick Douglass. Elijah of Buxton is not your typical book. For one thing, the narrative is different. The first two-thirds of the book is relaxed. The text is one story after another. Most are humorous. All set the mood and tone for the family and community. The last third of the novel is more traditional in that it is fast-paced, serious, and dramatic. It is an emotional journey as Elijah makes his way to America to help a slave in need risking his life and his freedom in the process. The narrative style along with the dialect may be challenging for some readers, but the characters, the setting, the dialogue, and the pacing are brilliantly created.

The African-American tradition of storytelling—which some refer to as signifying—is an important part of the culture. Discuss how Elijah of Buxton uses this traditional method of communication. As a basis for comparison, share other examples from Virginia Hamilton’s THE PEOPLE COULD FLY or Zora Neale Hurston’s LIES AND OTHER TALL TALES.

Other books about slavery:
Hamilton, Virginia. MANY THOUSAND GONE. ISBN 0679879366
Lester, Julius. DAY OF TEARS. ISBN 0786804904
Lester, Julius. TO BE A SLAVE. ISBN 0141310014
Lyons, Mary. LETTERS FROM A SLAVE GIRL. ISBN 1416936378

By Becky Laney

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