"One helping one to uplift all." The Buxton Settlement Creed
"It's the way all of us in the settlement look out for one another. We don't expect nothing in return, but if we see someone that needs a hand, we rush to give it. Good things always come from that."
Elijah was the first baby born into freedom in the Buxton settlement for runaway slaves. At eleven-years old, he struggled with his past and being so fra-gile. Every time someone told the story of his first meeting with the famous Fredrick Douglass, the story got more embarrassing! Mr. Douglass held baby Elijah over his head in celebration of being free-born, only to have Elijah throw up on him.
Being fra-gile was his Ma's biggest bone to pick with Elijah. That was something Elijah wanted, too, but it didn't always work to suck down the looseness and sloppiness in his nose and keep from screaming and running off at the littlest nonsense. It was even worse when Ma set about talking the subject near to death and then making the lesson permanent.
His best friend Cooter didn't help a lot. He just seemed to lead Elijah into one problem after another, but Cooter's stuff didn't even begin to measure up to the stuff the Right Reverend Deacon Doctor Zephariah Connery the Third dumped on him. Would he ever be able to judge "Preacher" for what he really was?
Now and then, runaway slaves would appear and be welcomed with the ringing of the Liberty Bell that brought every person in the settlement to meet them and offer their help in setting up their farm. Elijah's parents had protected him from hearing the horrors of slavery, but he caught bits and pieces from eavesdropping.
What will happen to this fra-gile boy when he finds an axe over his head? How will he respond when he is kidnapped? Will he be able to gather courage when he finds himself face to face with the horrors of slavery?
Named Newbery Honor Book of 2008, Elijah Of Buxton will make you roll on the floor laughing on one page and feel your own fragileness as you cry for Elijah's sweetness and the injustices in his world on the next. The dialect can be challenging reading, but it is a powerful read-aloud for grades 3-5 and an terrific novel for literature circles from grades 6-adult.
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interview with Christopher Paul Curtis
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