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Elijah of Buxton

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Elijah of Buxton Book Poster Image
Humorous, powerful, masterful escaped-slave tale.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 23 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

This is a thoughtful, touching, and important examination of slavery, and its effects.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Elijah is brave and compassionate.


Two men are beaten to death, one with a whip. Slaves are shackled, branded, and starved; a man is shot and badly injured; another is lynched; adults slap and punch children; a dog attacks and wounds a boy; it is implied that a slave will commit murder and suicide; a finger is cut off in a knife fight.


Two boys think their teacher is going to have a "family breeding contest" a supposedly hypnotized boy takes off his clothes in front of an audience.


A boy almost says the "N' word.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A boy smokes a cigar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, while Elijah of Buxton isn't as graphic as some books about slavery, it has its share of horrors, including beating deaths (only the aftermath described), lynching, scars from beatings and brandings, and adults and children shackled, starved, and deprived of water.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLayneE September 20, 2010

I'd give it a B+

The language can be confusing to young readers, but that is part of the beauty of the book. Symbols abound and the story is interesting and easy to follow. Par... Continue reading
Adult Written byMaestra T May 29, 2011
Teen, 13 years old Written byWtfubitch September 27, 2012

Awesome Book

It's great and you should get it :D.
Kid, 10 years old October 3, 2010


It's kinda weird, and every kid in my class hated it.

What's the story?

Elijah is the first child born in freedom in the Buxton settlement for escaped and freed slaves in Canada. Though he has certainly heard his elders talk, he has never experienced slavery directly. Instead, he has a good life, is getting a solid education, goes fishing, and lives with his loving family in their own home.

His closest experience of slavery has been the occasional rumors of slave catchers in the area, and when newly escaped slaves arrive at the settlement. That is, until the money Mr. Leroy was saving to buy the rest of his family out of slavery is stolen. Then Elijah, feeling partly responsible, agrees to cross over to America to try to get it back.

Includes Author's Note on Buxton, a real place, now a historic site.

Is it any good?

In Christopher Paul Curtis' award-winning debut, The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963, he firmly established the style that serves him so brilliantly in ELIJAH OF BUXTON. This is another first-person narrative, in vivid dialect, by a winningly naive child loaded with personality. Both books have a delightfully funny first half (some of the humor a bit off-color perhaps, but very true to the narrator's age and personality) and a powerfully moving historical event in the second half -- in this case, slavery -- made more powerful by the familiarity the reader has with the characters it will impact.

This wonderful, moving novel is sure to become a staple of discussion groups in schools and libraries across the country. Curtis' signal contribution to children's literature is his creation of novels that address important historical issues and events in an emotionally powerful, intellectually challenging, compassionate way, yet are simply rollicking good fun as well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Pa's statement regarding escaped slaves: "Don't no one get out of America without paying some terrible cost, without having something bad done permanent to 'em, without having something cut off of 'em or burnt into 'em or et up inside of 'em."

  • What does his statement mean, and do you think it was true?

  • How is it shown in each of the characters in the book?

  • What do you think about the aftermath of slavery?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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