Title: Elijah of Buxton
Author: Christopher Paul Curtis
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Concepts: slavery, interdependence, social justice
Review: Eleven-year-old Elijah Freeman could talk up a storm, had a generous heart, did well in school, and had a fantastic throwing arm. But he was also gullible and took fright easily, running and screaming like a madman when spooked, especially by snakes. His parents, former slaves who had escaped to Canada, often took comfort in the fact that Elijah was born into freedom rather than slavery given his "fragile" nature, as they called it. In fact, Elijah was the first child born into freedom in Buxton, a settlement of former slaves in southern Ontario close to the United States border that was founded in 1849.
Elijah enjoyed a happy life in Buxton, a community that thrived in large part due to strict rules regarding land ownership and home construction, as well as the establishment of its own school and lumber processing facilities. Yet Elijah heard stories about the horrors of slavery from his parents and other residents in Buxton. He also witnessed the physical scars on their bodies, the extraordinary fear exhibited by newly-escaped slaves who found their way to Buxton, and the depths of sadness when neighbors got news of the death of loved ones who were still in captivity.
Ultimately Elijah experienced the grim reality of slavery first-hand when a family friend's loss of a large sum of money led Elijah across the border to Michigan in search of the thief and the stolen money. Would this fragile child be able to draw on his talents to survive such a dangerous situation? The author has used his exceptional storytelling abilities to weave a tale of humor, treachery, agony, and childhood innocence into this award-winning novel. Important lessons in economics related to economic self-sufficiency and the institution of slavery are interwoven into this memorable work of historical fiction.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children