Elijah of Buxton



Humorous, powerful, masterful escaped-slave tale.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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

Positive role models

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.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A boy smokes a cigar.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Christopher Paul Curtis
Genre:Historical Fiction
Topics:Great boy role models, History, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:August 1, 2007
Number of pages:341
Read aloud:9
Read alone:10
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Awards:Coretta Scott King Medal and Honors, Newbery Medal and Honors

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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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. Parents can talk about the relationship we have with strangers, and teachers can use the book in a unit about slavery. Both the death and the cigar smoking shouldn't put off any potential buyers.
Educator and Parent Written byMediaXpert April 14, 2014

Devoid of faults!

THE BOOK: Is about 11 year old Elijah, who lives with a non-slave family durinh the times of slavery at a settlement in Canada. His good life is interupted when his friend Mr.Leroy's money is stolen by "Preacher" and Elijah feels obligated to get the money back for him. THE RATING: The book is funny and historically significant at the same time. Books like these are hard to find. Its light tone prevents it from becoming too depressing. Thinking back, there is not one thing wrong with this book. It is a masterpiece! AGE: While it is funny, it IS about slavery. Rated ON 11 and up for: violence, blood, infrequent nudity, and strong subject matter.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byMaestra T May 29, 2011


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