The Madman of Piney Woods
The Madman of Piney Woods
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Annotation: 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.
Catalog Number: #5611876
Format: Library Binding
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition Date: 2014
Pages: 363 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-545-15664-5
ISBN 13: 978-0-545-15664-6
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2014003493
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
In this companion to Elijah of Buxton, set in 1901, thirteen-year-old African Canadian boy Benji Alston befriends Irish Canadian boy Alvin "Red" Stockard. The two encounter the (supposedly mythical) Madman of Piney Woods, who brings the past into present for both boys. Woven throughout this profoundly moving yet also at times very funny novel are themes of family, friendship, community, compassion, and the power of words.
Publishers Weekly
In 1901, Benji Alston lives in Buxton, Ont., a real-life town settled by abolitionists and runaway slaves (and the setting of Curtis-s Newbery Honor-winning Elijah of Buxton). Alvin -Red- Stockard, son of an Irish immigrant and a local judge, resides in nearby Chatham. The woods of the title connect the two towns, and both boys have grown up hearing cautionary tall tales about a wild boogeyman who lives there. Writing in his customary episodic style, Curtis relates their separate stories in alternating chapters, incorporating a large cast, his trademark humor and gritty hijinks, and the historical events that shaped the people and the area: slavery, the U.S. Civil War, and Irish immigration. It takes more than half the book for the boys-both 13-and their stories to connect, which may try the patience of some readers. Those who persist, though, will be rewarded with an update on what became of Elijah, the hero of the first book, as Curtis delivers an ending that ties together the two stories, set 40 years apart, in a poignant and powerful way. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)

School Library Journal
Gr 46 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
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*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 nji'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.
Voice of Youth Advocates
It is 1901 in the former runaway slave settlement of Buxton, Canada, and Benji Alston dreams of writing for a newspaper. Gaining an apprenticeship, he sets out to become Buxton's finest journalist. Across the woods in Chatham, Canada, lives Red Stockard, grandson of Mother O'Toole, an imposing Irish immigrant. Red longs to be a scientist and approaches life through the scientific method, although he cannot quite deduce why his grandmother is so malicious. The two boys happen to meet while Benji is on assignment in Chatham, and they learn that they share the same fear of the legendary madman in the woods that separate their towns. An angry man's drunken reaction to the madman sets into motion events that lead the two new friends to discover that what makes a monster is not imagined horrors but the very real events from the past.In this moving coming-of-age tale, award-winning author Curtis uses the shared human experiences of fear, despair, and loss to connect two boys from different cultural backgrounds. Using alternating chapters, Curtis explores the historical parallels between the horrors of the transatlantic Irish migration and the painful remnants of slavery. Through these parallels, Curtis shows the dichotomous nature of fearhow it can turn people into what they fear the most or make them humble and forgiving. Set forty years after Elijah of Buxton (Scholastic, 2007/VOYA December 2007), this companion novel works well as a stand-alone and would be welcomed in many school or public library collections.Jewel Davis.
Word Count: 73,212
Reading Level: 5.7
Interest Level: 3-6
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.7 / points: 11.0 / quiz: 168473 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.6 / points:18.0 / quiz:Q63975
Lexile: 870L
Guided Reading Level: X
Fountas & Pinnell: X

As a cold shiver ran through my body and heat flushed through my face, I quickly lost my courage and forgot all about leaping through the picture window. Even more shamefully, I also forgot about my heroic plan to grab Benji and escape with him.

Knocking over the chair I had been pretending I was going to sit in, all I could manage to do was run toward the kitchen and shout, "Oh, Benji! Please! For the love of God, run!"

I can only imagine the confused look that must have come to Father's face when Benji hollered over his shoulder, "Thank you very much for having me over for supper, sir, the conversation was stimulating, your company was exhilarating, and that was one of the finest meals I've ever had!"

Benji jostled past me as we ran through the kitchen and spilled out onto the back porch.

"Keep running!" I yelled. "Don't listen to anything she says, she's very confused!"

Three blocks from home, just outside of the funeral parlour I grabbed the back of Benji's jacket and pulled him to a stop. I leaned over, put my hands on my knees, and gasped to him, "I'm fairly certain we're safe. I don't think she can run this far."

"You don't think who can run this far? Who are we running from?"

"Grandmother O'Toole!"


"My mother's mother."

"Your grandmother? We're running like this from your grandmother?"

Excerpted from The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Bestselling Newbery Medalist Christopher Paul Curtis delivers a powerful companion to his multiple award-winning ELIJAH OF BUXTON.

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?

In a tale brimming with intrigue and adventure, Christopher Paul Curtis returns to the vibrant world he brought to life in Elijah of Buxton. Here is another novel that will break your heart -- and expand it, too.

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