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Book Review: Elijah of Buxton

27 February 2012 One Comment

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic Canada
368 pp

By Nikelle Marier

Christopher Paul Curtis’s children’s novel transports us back in time to a Canadian settlement for runaway slaves: a place and a struggle in Canadian Black History that is rarely acknowledged.

This is a book that should be read, shared and talked about by everyone regardless of age or ethnicity.  It is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of Elijah Buxton, the first child to be born free in Buxton, Ontario. The novel is told in the first perspective of an innocent 11-year-old boy whose dignity, determination and honour touched the lives of everyone he met.  Walk with him through his joys, despairs and struggles in this moving novel that intertwines fact with fiction and introduces the readers to actual people, places and events that are part of Canadian Black History.   A settlement where old fashioned values were highly regarded, elders were treated with respect and a strong sense of community existed.

It is filled with symbolisms and messages that are relevant to modern day times. The values and sense of community that prevailed in Buxton helped them to thrive and prosper throughout hard times. Characters in the novel that deviated from those values were met with despair, misery and/or death. The author includes deep and powerful quotes  like, “A coward dies a thousand deaths but a brave boy dies but once” , as subtle encouragements for readers to always stand up for what they believe in not matter how difficult the circumstance.  In addition, the story is written in a way that reminds readers that life is often confusing for children and those little eyes are watching, listening and imitating what they see around them.  Black, white, young and old must unite, show respect for each other and uplift and empower each other.  Life is not easy or always fair but with hard work, determination and faith you can prosper.

Written between the lines are also reminders that we are all related and connected by the struggles of those that came before us. Many died so that that we all could be free to live together in peace and prosperity. The best tribute we could pay to those who battled on the frontlines of the battle for freedom is to return to the old fashioned values and attitudes that this community exemplified and realize our full potential as a community.

I will never know the pain of being separated from my family due to slavery or have to fear slave catchers taking away my freedom.  I can attend high school and plan a future without limitations. The book leaves me with pride, respect and hope.  I encourage everyone to read the book and think deeply about the hidden messages.  The book inspired me to realize that even though I am only 15 years old, I am powerful. I have a responsibility to make the most of the freedom that was earned by the blood, sweat and tears of others. I have a role to play and a contribution to make.  What is your role?

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One Comment »

  • Christine Trotter said:

    Very well written and thought provoking book review. Sounds like a book worthy of reading.

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