|Madman of Piney Woods|
Author: Curtis, Christopher Paul
Even though it is now 1901, the people of Buxton, Canada (originally a settlement of runaway slaves) and Chatham, Canada are still haunted by two events of half a century before--the American Civil War, and the Irish potato famine, and the lasting damage those events caused to the survivors.
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|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 5.70
Points: 11.0 Quiz: 168473
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 3-5
Reading Level: 5.60
Points: 18.0 Quiz: 63975
Kirkus Reviews (+) (07/01/14)
School Library Journal (08/01/14)
Booklist (+) (07/01/14)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (00/10/14)
The Hornbook (+) (00/09/14)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 07/01/2014 *Starred Review* The year is 1901 in this companion volume to Curtis’ Newbery Honor winner Elijah of Buxton (2007). The coprotagonists are African Canadian Benji of Buxton and Irish Canadian Red of nearby Chatham. Each brief chapter alternates between the two as readers learn that Benji longs to be a journalist, and Red, a scientist. At first, they seem to have little in common except their respective encounters with a strange, frightening hermit known to Benji as the Madman of Piney Woods and known to Red as the South Woods Lion Man. Call him what you will, he becomes a large presence in the book when the two boys finally meet almost 200 pages into the story and quickly become fast friends. Another large presence is Red’s termagant grandmother, who despises black Canadians and from whom Red keeps his new friendship with Benji a secret. The grandmother is a vehicle for Curtis to examine the terrible experiences of early Irish immigrants to Canada, experiences that are not unlike those of blacks in America. Though sometimes overly discursive, the novel is otherwise a delight, featuring the author’s obvious love for his characters, his skillful use of sentiment, and his often hyperbolic humor—Benji’s laboring to reconstruct his younger siblings’ tree house upside down (you have to be there) is priceless. It is, in short, quintessential Curtis, sure to please his legions of fans and to cultivate new ones. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 08/01/2014 Gr 4–6—This companion novel to Elijah of Buxton(Scholastic, 2007), set 40 years after its conclusion, is a powerful testimony to the joys of friendship and the cost of unresolved hatred. The lingering effects of prejudice and unbelievable hardship weigh heavily in the lives of Benji, the descendant of American slaves, and Red, the grandson of an Irish immigrant to Canada. A chance meeting at a forensics competition brings these two different boys together; their initial conversation, in which they talk about their physical differences, is awkwardly charming and sincere. Although their communities are different, they have both grown up with the legend of a crazed former slave, a hermit called "The Madman of Piney Woods." Their friendship is complicated by the fact that Red's grandmother is extremely racist and fearful. The strong father-son relationship between Red and his father is tenderly and honestly created. Relationships between family and friends are realistically complicated, changing, and complex. The horror of Ireland's potato famine, the "coffin ships" that carried Grandmother O'Toole to Canada, and the prejudice faced by Irish-Canadians are brutally brought to life, as is the constant tension felt by the few remaining original settlers of Buxton. Although occasionally somber and heartbreaking, there is great humor, hope, and adventure from Benji and Red. The conclusion may be less powerful if readers are not familiar with Elijah, but it is stunning nonetheless. An author's note on the inspiration and creation of the story is included.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.