Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Book: Elijah of Buxton

I need to read Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, illus. Robert Byrd, because then I can determine whether Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis was slighted or not. But truly, what a great book. I think Olive would even agree that this was a work well-deserving of the honor given.

The story takes place in Buxton, Canada, a small settlement established as a refuge for former slaves; Elijah was the first child born to the settlement, which gave him the honored distinction to be the first settler born free.

Since the story is told from the first person, written in a native Canadian-type voice which was carried excellently throughout, the reader gets to know Elijah well: he is eleven, has a gift for throwing rocks swiftly and accurately, likes animals, and has a naive trust in people that often leads him to unfortunate gullibility. His mother frequently calls him a "fra-gile" boy, but even I was impressed at how many times Elijah was taken in (and that's saying something because I tend to be incredibly gullible myself).

The plot had a lot of buildup in the form of character depiction, mostly related to the Preacher, a shifty self-proclaimed religious man. The heavy focus on the relationship between Elijah and the Preacher meant that the inevitable creation of the climax was somewhat predictable, but the way the problem played out was creative, and rested the responsibility exactly on the shoulders of Elijah. The greatest moment ended up not to be a show-down or an adult intervention or a deux ex machina, but came when Elijah fought to overcome the naive tendencies he'd been battling the entire book. It was a great battle.

On the scale of one to ten, I'd say read the book. It was well-written, engaging, entertaining, and sincerely touching (but not in an overly sentimental way, so Olive will still enjoy it).


Olive said...

I shall read both of them, in time.

We shall discuss.

Olive said...


I have a question. What are your thoughts on The Higher Power of Lucky? I know that I went off on how I thought some things were crazy, like abandoning a kid, basically to die, and getting rewarded for running away, and then dropping out the character that was introduced early on in the story (well, he comes back eventually, but . . .).

Anyway, I was wondering if I spouted off before I really heard your views on the subject.

Let me know.