Newberry Award, 2008; Scott O"Dell award for historic Fiction, 2008; Coretta Scott King Award, 2008

Eleven-year-old Elijah Freeman lives in Canada’s Buxton settlement, a refuge for freed slaves and their families. As the an initial free-born child, Elijah has heard about, yet never experienced, slavery. The enjoys a peaceful life attending church and also school under the guidance of wise, love parents and also kind neighborhood members. After ~ school, he functions alongside Mr. Leroy, a male saving come buy his wife and children out of slavery. Elijah’s parents consider the boy “fra-gile,” for this reason he constantly struggles to prove himself and understand the “growned up” world.

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A male who calls himself appropriate Reverend Deacon medical professional Zephariah Connerly the third takes benefit of Elijah’s desire to show up grown up. He praises the boy’s specific rock chucking abilities and also tells Elijah the Jesus has given him a gift he need to use because that the an excellent of the community. The invites Elijah come sneak out v him one night to clock a traveling carnival. Zephariah provides Elijah show his chucking skills to the show’s owner and practically sells the boy to the carnival.

When a neighbor, Mrs. Holton, gets a letter saying her husband to be beaten come death, the city grieves with her. She gives Mr. Leroy all the money she had actually been conserving to free her husband. Overwhelmed and excited, Mr. Leroy permits Zephariah to transfer the huge sum to who who deserve to retrieve his family. Zephariah steals the money, and also a distraught Mr. Leroy asks Elijah come sneak turn off to America with him to uncover Zephariah.

Mr. Leroy die on the way, do Elijah promise come avenge him. Elijah finds Zephariah hanged in a barn, eliminated by white slave traders. He likewise finds four slaves and a baby, naked and also in chains. His very first real suffer with enslavement jars him, and also he’s ruined to establish he can’t save these people. The slave woman urges the to take her kid to safety. As he crosses right into Canada through the infant girl, that whispers the heat welcoming decided Pa constantly gives to newly-freed slaves.


Elijah and also his family attend church and Sabbath school. Elijah lists chores he’d rather execute than sit through church. White females in America write to tell Mrs. Holton she husband has actually gone to “the loving eight of our Savior.” The letter mentions God’s mercy, wisdom and also providence and says the male received a Christian burial. Mr. Leroy claims if God is just, choose he to know He is, the “N” word will certainly be buried with every the cruel white people who used it. World use phrases choose “Lord have actually Mercy,” “What ~ above God’s earth” and also “Sweet baby Jesus.” The ar believes in God, so this exclamations room not claimed in mockery of God. Elijah claims a girl in his class lets the sin of envy choke she heart.

Zephariah, a preacher there is no a church, proclaims he’s the smartest male around. That tricks Elijah the end of some fish through convincing the boy to tithe. He praises Elijah’s stone-throwing accuracy, very first saying the left-handed cram looks favor the occupational of the Devil and then deciding the is a gift from Jesus. Zephariah likens Elijah’s fishing an abilities to Jesus feeding the 5,000.


Elijah occasionally talks about spells or “conjures.” the calls the show folks in ~ the carnival “conjurers.” A carnival actress says heathen magic has actually left she blind. At a fair, a conjurer convinces a boy to piece naked in front of a big crowd. The young does this due to the fact that he’s pretending to be hypnotized. Once someone action out, together as when Mr. Travis gets upset while in ~ school, Elijah says it’s favor he’s been taken over by Satan.


Ma and Pa, previous slaves, are loving parents with a feeling of humor. They offer Elijah wise values for living. Both are involved that Elijah is as well “fra-gile” and shot to instill an capability to it is in brave in him. Pa helps carry other servants to freedom and ensures they gain a warmth reception as soon as they come in Buxton. Zephariah pretends come befriend Elijah at any time he desires something indigenous the boy. The steals and gambles through Mr. Leroy’s money and also shoots a man. Mr. Leroy slaps Elijah when the boy provides a gyeongju slur. He lectures Elijah about the word’s heritage of hate. He later on tells Elijah the can’t it is in timid about what he does yet should strategy situations expecting good to happen. Mr. Leroy is the an initial adult who treats Elijah together an adult. Mr. Travis regularly gets visibly frustrated, teaching the same youngsters for school and Sabbath school. He affirms Elijah’s initiatives when the young helps compose a memorial plaque because that Mrs. Holton.


A slave trying to curse there is no saying the word spells the end “d-a-m.” several white people refer to black civilization as pickaninnies. Elijah starts to say the n-word, yet Mr. Leroy angrily stops him before he can acquire it out.


A servant woman kisses Elijah and her infant on their heads. Elijah’s teacher writes, “Familiarity each other contempt” ~ above the classroom board. Elijah and his girlfriend deduce its meaning as “family reproduction contest” and are excited at the possibility of a sex education and learning lesson. They space disappointed.


Discussion Topics


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Additional Comments


Parents or teachers might use this book as a springboard for studying slavery and also the underground Railroad.

Lying/Deception: Elijah lies come his parents and also others for this reason he and Mr. Leroy deserve to go looking for Zephariah. He periodically sneaks out of the residence at night come roam around the forest. Though his parents have forbidden him to walk to a travel show, the sneaks out and also attends it with Zephariah. Elijah says once you begin lying, it’s not tough to store going.

Nudity: The slaves Elijah finds in America room naked. That averts his eyes.

Smoking: several of the circus people smoke cigars.

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