Elijah of Buxton Historical Fiction

By Jada Crowell

Annotated Book Review

In this Newberry Medal winning historical fiction novel by Christopher Paul Curtis, 11 year old boy named Elijah Freeman must go on a dangerous journey to America to help get his friend’s money back from a thief, so that friend can buy his family out of slavery. The setting takes place in Buxton, Canada. The story line is simple, but the plot isn’t really introduced until you finish up the book.

Early in the novel, the author describes each character, so you can already tell how that character acts. In the book, Elijah tell about how his mother said to not be fragile. Elijah talks about his fragileness in parts of the book. For most of the book, Elijah has these experiences with his best friend Cooter from pranking Elijah’s mom with a toad to finding out why Mr. Travis, their Sabbath and school teacher, is angry in a chapter. Elijah is a good boy by doing his chores every day and working with Mr. Leroy. One day, Elijah went to Chatham, a close town to pick up Buxton’s mail, his favorite chore. He gets a letter in fancy writing and has a notion that this letter holds bad news. The letter was addressed to Ms. Holton. Elijah told his mother and she told him to put on his Sunday clothes. While Elijah and his mother were walking to Ms. Holton’s house, some other people wanted to join them, including Miss Duncan the first and Miss Duncan the second. Elijah read from the letter that Mrs. Holton’s husband, John Holton was caught from escaping and died from being beat to death. Surprisingly, Mrs. Holton did not cry.

Later on in the book, Elijah was told to meet Mr. Leroy at the saw mill. Keep in mind that Mr. Leroy works for Mrs. Holton and he’s been saving the money that he’s earned to buy his family out of slavery. Mrs. Holton has requested that Mr. Leroy carved a memorial of her husband and put it on the front of her door. After Elijah and Mr. Travis revised Mrs. Holton’s writing, Mr. Leroy began carving. When Mrs. Holton read the memorial, she gave Elijah a nickel and Mr. Leroy $2200 in gold. That was enough to buy his wife and kids out of slavery. While planning how to arrange to get them out, the Preacher comes by. I want to let you know that Zephariah calls himself a preacher, but you can tell that he is a sinful guy the way the author describes him. By convincing Mr. Leroy to give him the money, the Preacher and Mr. Highgate head to Michigan. The next day, an injured Mr. Highgate says that the Preacher shot him. Elijah and Mr. Leroy then set off to find the Preacher and get Mr. Leroy’s money back.

I liked the book. I thinks it’s OK. One of Christopher’s greatest strengths as a writer is his ability to describe a new character in every chapter. For example, in the first chapter, the writer explains how Cooter is Elijah’s best friend and how he likes mysteries. As I read on, though, I lost a little interest in every chapter because I was wondering when I will get to the main conflict that I read in the summary before reading the book. I wish the author would put the conflict earlier in the book because I lost interest little by little. If the conflict was earlier, then my attention would’ve been grabbed; keeping me on the edge of my seat waiting what happens next. Also, the ending. As you get closer to the end, you find the conflict. You also find two new characters. We don’t know much about them, though and what happens to them. Honestly if the real stuff starts happening in the middle of the book, then readers would be interested.

The central theme of Elijah of Buxton is even though you seem small, you can surprise people of what you can do. Overall, this novel is a dramatic story which interests the reader at a slow pace. I would rate this novel 3 out of 5 stars because it didn’t really catch my attention, but it was still interesting to read and learn about different characters’ personalities and actions. I would recommend this novel to parents with kids 9 and up, so they can start learning about history and what happened.

Analysis of historical accuracy

This novel was based on a settlement called the Elgin Settlement, but known as Buxton, Canada. What I found was a white Presbyterian minister was named Reverend William King and he founded Buxton. In 1849, Rev. King shared the settlement with “fifteen slaves whom he had inherited through his wife, and six escaped slaves who awaited them” (Curtis). Buxton was efficient and had a brickyard, hotel and potash mill. The author was accurate in adding a post office, sawmill and school because Buxton had that, too. Buxton also had a 6 mile tram that carried lumber from Buxton to Lake Erie where it would be sold throughout North America from ships. The author writes in the book that Frederick Douglass and john Brown went to Buxton one day and baby Elijah threw up on him. That did not happen, but Douglass and Brown went to Buxton, but not at the same time.

Informative Piece

“Founded in 1849 by a white Presbyterian minister named Reverend William King, the Settlement was first shared by Reverend King…”

Born in Londonderry, Ireland, William was the youngest of seven children. King was greatly influenced by William Wilberforce and Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton for both opposed slavery. In 1836, William began teaching children of three wealthy families with a salary of $800. All except one family were pleased with his teaching and asked if he could teach other families. In 1839, he took the job as Headmaster for Mathews Academy of Louisiana College under a protocol where he had the “power to correct” teachers and pupils. When he was 28, he married Mary Mourning Phares, daughter of a wealthy planter, in 1841. During his years in Mathews Academy, he lived in the southern states. He became a slave owner for, in the south, he couldn’t get servants (picky with doing “slave” chores) and you couldn’t free a slave. In 1843, after the birth of their son Theophilus, King resigned his position at Mathews and bought the plantation that was near his father-in-law. He left his family in the hands of his father-in-law to pursue a Divinity degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 1844. He returned to get his family on the Patrick Henry. Before returning to Scotland, his family went to visit the King family farm in Ohio. But, sadly, Theophilus caught a fever and passed on the way to Ohio. Shortly, after the birth of their daughter Mary Elizabeth Chalmers, Mary got tuberculosis and passed in 1846. Unfortunately, baby Mary died a few months after.

In August 1846, King became a licensed minister by the Edinburgh Presbytery and accepted a commission as a missionary to Canada (King). In the spring of 1847, he got word that the Mary Phares family wanted to settle his father-in-law’s estate (King). As the only surviving family member, he inherited the portion that was consisted of slaves. He told the Presbytery that he wanted to free the slaves and bring them to Canada. By April 1848, going almost 2000 miles, he reached the farm in Ohio. Once they got there, he left the fifteen slaves with his brother and learning the basics survivals of the north. The Presbyterian church met with Lord Elgin and he supported a Synod committee. Some didn't agree with the new settlement, so King divided into 50 acre lots. William married Jemima Nicole Baxter of Scotland and resided in Chatham until his death in 1895.

Short Narrative Piece

Dear Cooter,

Today, I had a crazy time. I dropped off Old Flapjack back at Mr. Segee’s barn and I rode him to the secret lake we always go to. I caught some fish with my stones and as I was walking home, people started were trying to con-vince me to give them some fish. Luckily, I wasn’t dumb enough to fall for their tricks and I needed to bring a dinner for Mr. Leroy. So I declined every one of them. I stopped by Mrs. Brown’s house ‘cause she offered to swap a fish with a cherry pie she just baked. And boy oh boy, did it smell good! Once I got home, Mama cooked up the fish. Mama’s isn’t as good as Mrs. Brown’s, but she makes tolerable food. After dinner, Mama made a plate for Mr. Leroy ‘cause he works for Mrs. Holton. I went to Mrs. Holton’s house and she told me that he was out back. As I walked, I noticed something. When Mr. Leroy is chopping the trees, the sound is like a pattern from a machine. It makes a kind of crack!, CHUH, hoong, ka sound. I made it to him and he thanked me and my ma. But, for some odd reason, Mr. Leroy ate the entire fish, bones included! I was wonderin’ how when he finished his meal. After, he handed the plate we started working. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow when we help Mrs. Holton with the tree stumps



Primary Sources


Works Cited

Buxton Liberty Bell. Digital image. Photobucket. Photobucket, 2016. Web. 3 May 2016.

Curtis, Christopher Paul. Elijah Of Buxton. New York: Scholastic, n.d. Web.

Gardner, Lori. "The Founder of Elgin Settlement." BUXTON MUSEUM. Ontario Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Apr. 2012. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

"Go To Buxton Museum Virtual Exhibit." Rev. William King. Buxton Museum Virtual Exhibit, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.

Plan of the Elgin Settlement. 1860. Canada. Library and Archives Canada. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.