I chose to read Elijah of Buxton for my booktalk. Written by Christopher Paul Curtis, this book won both a Newberry Honor and A Coretta Scott King Honor. I was drawn to it because I saw that it was historical fiction, a genre that I myself loved as a child. I always read the “American Girl” and “Dear America” series, and I thought I would enjoy this book as well. Elijah of Buxton tells the story of an 11-year old boy who was born into freedom in a runaway slave settlement in Buxton, Canada. It takes place in 1860 and chronicles his life and a journey to America to catch a thief.
I have also recently taken a course at UNC called African American Literature before the 1930’s and I was anxious to read a book about slavery that was geared more to the mindsets and interests of children. I think the book will be easy for me to read because I have this background knowledge of the time period and familiarity with some of the literature written at and about the 1860’s.
I was a little worried, however, when a classmate told me that they didn’t enjoy Elijah of Buxton and that I should find another book. My guess is that they only read the first chapter, because it was very slow. The story has really picked up though, including the main character meeting the legendary Frederick Douglass. I am not quite halfway through the book, but I hope to finish it soon. I have missed reading chapter books on this level because they are so easy to get through in just an afternoon or two.
I have been a little thrown off by some of the dialect used in the book. Although I understand that it adds authenticity and helps the reader to immerse himself in the story, I find it somewhat distracting. I believe children should be exposed to correct spelling and grammar as much as possible so it can find its way into their own writing.
As a female reader myself, I think this book is aimed more to young males, which is a great thing to know as a teacher. If boys and girls feel like a book is geared to their own interests, they are more likely to become interested and immersed in it.
Christopher Paul Curtis is an amazing author. I have really enjoyed the humor and suspense so far in his writing. The front cover of the book refers to his “vibrant narrative style” and I definitely agree. I have noticed that the book drags some details on a little too long. The first chapter, for example, took about twenty pages to tell a story about a snake in a cookie jar. I’m hoping that the incident will tie back in later on in the book, because as of now I can’t figure out why it was included at all! I think these first few chapters are just setting up the background story as a foundation for the real “action” of the book.
I can already tell that the Right Reverend Zephariah W. Connerly the Third is up to no good…I’m interested to see the rest of the story unfold. I’ll get back to you when I finish!