Scholastic Press, 2014. 978-0545156646
Synopsis: Benji and Red couldn’t be more different. They aren’t friends. They don’t even live in the same town. But their fates are entwined. A chance meeting leads the boys to discover that they have more in common than meets the eye. Both of them have encountered a strange presence in the forest, watching them, tracking them. Could the Madman of Piney Woods be real? – from Amazon.com
Why I picked it up: I kept hearing good things about this author and finally decided to check out some of his work.
Why I finished it: I like historical fiction and what Curtis has woven together in this story is nothing short of heart-warming and inspiring. What begins as a tale of two towns post-Civil War becomes the story of what is destined to become a lasting friendship. Benji and Red may appear to be more different than they are alike, but as the reader goes on, they begin to see the parallels that are drawing the two boys together. Is it fate? Perhaps. Could there have been some divine intervention involved? Maybe. But the events that transpire after their meeting are what forever binds the two boys together, for better or for worse. Both boys are ambitious in their own way – Red wants to be a scientist and Benji a journalist – as well as mischievous and caring. We like them because they are young and carefree. They had friends and family that care about them, even if their own love for their relations wavers depending on the situation and the day. Curtis carefully draws the reader into the world he created in Elijah of Buxton and explores what the town looks like 40 years later after the war has ended in the United States. It shows how people are dealing with the aftermath of the war and other historical events. If nothing, we learn something about the hardships faced by immigrants and blacks at the turn of the century in the years leading up to the Civil Rights movement. It’s a touching story about unlikely friendship, the hope associated with conquering our fears, and the possibility of understanding.
Other related materials: Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis; Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis; The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis; The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis; One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia; P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams Garcia; Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson; Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper; Revolution by Deborah Wiles; Countdown by Deborah Wiles; The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley