Literary Criticism and Significance
Elijah of Buxton is an exceptional young adult novel which is notable on a number of levels. It sheds light on a historical setting about which surprisingly little has been written, the Elgin Settlement and Buxton Mission of Raleigh, established in Canada in 1849 as a haven for freed and escaped slaves from America. In writing the book, the author, Christopher Paul Curtis, approaches the institution of slavery from a peripheral viewpoint, communicating a clear picture of the dehumanizing brutality and complete illogic of the evil phenomenon without sensationalizing it. Elijah of Buxton is a novel that teaches as it entertains, examining in depth themes of hatred and endurance, and the love of family and community. Elijah Freeman, the central character, is funny and authentic, and the reader grows along with him as he gradually comes to an understanding of the true horror of slavery and the immeasurable value of freedom.
Highly recommended by educational and literary reviews, Elijah of Buxton appears on the 2008 lists of "The Top 10 Historical Fiction for Youth" and "The Top 10 Black History Books for Youth," and it is praised by Horn Book Magazine. Among the many recognitions it has received are the Coretta Scott King Author Award and a naming as a Newbery Honor Book. Because of its sensitive handling of pertinent subject matter, the book fits into a variety of curricular areas, including language arts, social studies, and history, and it has been called "a perfect complement" to other famous young adult classics such as Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Elijah of Buxton has been made into an audio book, and has been skillfully translated into Spanish by Alberto Jimenez Rioja, making it accessible to Spanish speakers. The colorful and engaging colloquial language of the narrative also renders the book a perfect choice for reading aloud.