"Elijah of Buxton" by Christopher Paul Curtis, Chapters 1-4

Born in a Canadian settlement for runaway slaves, naive and well-meaning Elijah is forced to confront the realities of slavery when he attempts to recover stolen money that would help free a friend's enslaved family.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1-4, Chapters 5-10, Chapters 11-16, Chapters 17-24

Here are links to our lists for other books by Christopher Paul Curtis: Bud, Not Buddy, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, The Journey of Little Charlie
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Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. chore
    a specific piece of work required to be done
    It was Sunday after church and all my chores were done.
  2. stoop
    small porch or set of steps at the front entrance of a house
    I was sitting on the stoop of our home trying to think what to do.
  3. tote
    carry with difficulty
    “I warned them they had to check out those new-free folks better, and now somebody’s accidentally toted some of those horrible creatures up here.”
  4. commence
    begin or get started
    “Listen! And, my young brothers, you better listen good! This may save your lives. Once they’ve bitten their tails, they form the shape of a circle then stand up like a wheel or a barrel hoop and commence rolling after whatever they’ve decided to kill!”
  5. entrails
    internal organs collectively
    The Preacher said, “You swell so much that after exactly seven and a half days the pressure in your body becomes too great and you explode like an overheated steam boiler! In seconds your stomach and your lungs and your other entrails are flung around you for miles and miles!”
  6. slew
    a large number or amount or extent
    “Those tracks were fresh, looks like a momma and poppa and a slew of babies! Which, God bless us all, means we’re too late, they’ve already started breeding! And from the way those tracks were going, I’d say they’re hungry and have started up a hoop snake hunting party!”
  7. holster
    a sheath for carrying a handgun
    The Preacher throwed his knife into the ground where the tracks use to be and put his hand on the fancy holster and mystery pistol he always totes.
  8. daft
    foolish or mentally irregular
    Ma looked at me like I was daft.
  9. fragile
    easily broken or damaged or destroyed
    There ain’t nothing in the world she wants more than for me to quit being so doggone fra-gile.
  10. commotion
    a disorderly outburst or tumult
    Cooter was whistling and still laughing every once in the while and, doggone-it-all, I saw how unfair this whole commotion was turning out to be.
  11. whittle
    cut small bits or pare shavings from
    Ma was back to working on that sweater and Pa was whittling away.
  12. perch
    spiny-finned freshwater food and game fishes
    “She done some baking too, say she hoping to trade for two of them big perch.”
  13. gander
    mature male goose
    “Well, Elijah, seem to me what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”
  14. fret
    worry unnecessarily or excessively
    Ma says even back then I was a fra-gile child, and the more he tossed me, the more she was fretting.
  15. hoe
    dig with a tool with a flat blade
    Life’s gunn be a tough row to hoe for you if you don’t learn you caint be believing everything folks tell you, not even growned folks.
  16. flank
    the side between ribs and hipbone
    Two more horseflies landed on Old Flapjack’s flank and it was a chance to make up for the mistake I’d just made.
  17. dumbstruck
    so surprised or shocked as to be unable to speak
    That meant I hadn’t hit ’em hard enough to break no fly bones or nothings but I had hit ’em so’s they were gonna be a little dumbstruck.
  18. ornery
    having a difficult and contrary disposition
    The Preacher’ll tell anyone that listens that the biggest, most ornery horseflies in the world live right here in Buxton.
  19. impress
    have a positive impact on
    The Preacher liked waving his arms ’round whilst he was talking, and he was really going at it to try to impress these new folks.
  20. conjure
    summon into action or bring into existence
    The Preacher said, “I saw you, Elijah. I saw what you were doing, and I’m afraid it has the look of conjuring to it.”
  21. racket
    a loud and disturbing noise
    I’d always pictured that there’d be so many rattling-snakes hissing and shaking in these parts that you’d near ’bout go deaf from the racket they made.
  22. blaspheme
    speak of in an irreverent or impious manner
    I’d been meaning to ask our Sabbath school teacher, Mr. Travis, if it was blaspheming to say this, but seemed to me if this rock chunking really was a gift from Jesus, it would be the sort of thing that would be there forever, and for me it waren’t atall.
  23. rile
    disturb, especially by minor irritations
    This would get the little fish riled up, they’d bump at the flies and try to pull ’em under and would raise a ruckus that’d make the big fish wonder what the commotion was for.
  24. ruckus
    the act of making a noisy disturbance
    This would get the little fish riled up, they’d bump at the flies and try to pull ’em under and would raise a ruckus that’d make the big fish wonder what the commotion was for.
  25. berserk
    frenzied as if possessed by a demon
    There’s something ’bout the way those half-wit horseflies move on the water that scares the small fish away and drives the big fish berserk!
  26. tithe
    pay a tenth of one's income, especially to the church
    He said, “A fine Christian thing to do! Now I was also wondering, Elijah, if you know anything about a word called tithing?”
  27. geometry
    the mathematics of points and lines and curves and surfaces
    I said, “I’m tolerable good long’s it don’t get stretched into geometry.”
  28. decimal
    a proper fraction whose denominator is a power of 10
    I moved the decimal point without using pencil nor paper and said, “One tenth of a hundred and twenty-two years comes to twelve full years and two-tenths of a year, sir.”
  29. disrespect
    an expression of lack of regard
    I didn’t mean to show no disrespect but I couldn’t help frowning.
  30. humbug
    something intended to deceive
    I’d started with ten fish and now I was down to six, and even though I ain’t particular worthy at my schooling, it still seemed it’d take a whole lot of doggone humbug algebra and some trickaration geometry to make ten percent of ten come out to four.
  31. algebra
    the mathematics of generalized arithmetical operations
    I’d started with ten fish and now I was down to six, and even though I ain’t particular worthy at my schooling, it still seemed it’d take a whole lot of doggone humbug algebra and some trickaration geometry to make ten percent of ten come out to four.
  32. eavesdrop
    listen without the speaker's knowledge
    I couldn’t ask Pa what that meant without him knowing I’d been eavesdropping on growned folks’ conversations, but I was catching on that it waren’t a good thing to be.
  33. skittish
    unpredictably excitable, especially of horses
    The only sound was birds, and you wouldn’t never think that birds singing would be something to make you skittish, but hearing ’em singing all by theirselves like that, they might as well’ve been haints or ghosts singing.
  34. shackle
    a restraint that confines or restricts freedom
    Pa told me that one of the Settlement’s white friends from Chatham had come busting in on horseback and warned that there were two American scallywags with pistols and shackles and chains asking questions ’bout the best way to get to Buxton.
  35. scythe
    an edge tool for cutting grass
    A little ways from home the Preacher came running at us holding on to a long sharp blade from off a scythe.
  36. jumpy
    being in a tense or nervous state
    Everybody was still a little jumpy what with them paddy-rollers ’round somewhere and the Preacher not being seen for a while so Ma and Pa were up in a flash!
  37. ajar
    slightly open
    Pa said, “Were it one a our’n? You think someone leaved the barn door ajar?”
  38. stallion
    uncastrated adult male horse
    I told him, “No, sir. ’Twas a big white stallion with a saddle, nothing like none of ours.”
  39. uproot
    pull up by or as if by the roots
    His head was leaned down over their picket fence and he was chawing on bunches of flowers, uprooting most of Mrs. Highgate’s black-eye Susies.
  40. rousing
    capable of stirring enthusiasm or excitement
    And everybody knowed it would be near impossible for the Preacher to keep a story as rousing as that all to hisself.

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