Elijah is the first free born black child in the Canadian settlement of Buxton. He has a loving mother and father, a mischievous best friend, Cooter, and stern school teacher. He plays practical jokes, gets in scrapes, and has a pretty good life. He works in the evening helping a man, Mr. Leroy, who is saving money to buy his wife and children out of slavery in the American south. When Mr. Leroy finally acquires enough money it is cheated away from him by a man Elijah had trusted. Mr. Leroy recruits Elijah to help him get it back because Elijah and read. As they cross the border into America, Elijah sees for the first time the horrors of slavery.
Ok, so this doesn't sound like a very cheery book, but I actually liked it very much. The first part is a like a Canadian "Tom Sawyer" kind of story. Elijah and his best friend have some pretty funny escapades together. The reader gets a good view of what life might have been like for escaped slaves living in Canada before the Civil War. It doesn't get really serious until the very end, but Curtis manages to write it so that it is touching instead of horrific. I read this because the sequel The Madman of Piney Woods is getting great reviews this year. I can hardly wait to read it. (341 p)