The Madman of Piney Woods

The Madman of Piney Woods

Book - 2014 | First edition
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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.
Publisher: New York : Scholastic Press, [2014]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9780545156646
Call Number: j CURTIS 2014
Characteristics: 363 pages : illustration ; 22 cm


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Sep 08, 2019

I'm having a difficult time trying to rate this book. First off, having myself been born and mostly raised in that immediate part of the country, it was bound to capture my interest. The story of the Buxton community is truly remarkable and its impact on the surrounding communities was profound. For anyone interested in the entire story I highly recommend "Look to the North Star: A Life of William King" by Victor Ullman. I was greatly impressed by Curtis' exploration of the complicated relationship between the African-Canadian residents of Buxton and the immigrant Irish. Their tragic shared experiences of displacement, poverty, abuse, traumatic travel, discrimination in some cases engendered empathy but in many other cases anger, animosity and even violent confrontation. It's interesting to note that William King, the driving force behind the establishment of Buxton at the northern terminus of the Underground Railroad was himself an Irishman -- although far from being a typical Orangeman of his day.
The flavor of the "Madman of Piney Woods" swings wildly between far-fetched hilarity and grimly tragic accounts, with excursions into local folklore and old-fashioned moralizing. The two protagonists, dwelling in very separate worlds within a few short miles of each other, have a natural appeal, although I doubt that a real couple of boys living there in 1901 would have found each other's company so agreeable, nor is it likely that their two families would have understood and respected each other so readily. So the book is probably a bit too idealistic for many readers' tastes. That may be forgivable in a book that seems primarily intended for a YA audience but it does diminish its effectiveness.
I feel compelled to complain about several errors in geographical names and details, starting off right at the beginning: The frontispiece map misnames Lake St. Clair as Lake Sinclair! And the action takes place entirely within the County of Kent but when the boys are discussing their wish to keep the Piney Woods for themselves they suggest that hordes of people from all over Elgin County would be tramping around in it; Elgin County would have been more than a full day's journey by horse from Piney Woods. Finally, several mentions are made of "Upper Ontario" a term I had never encountered before. The province we now know as Ontario was called "Upper Canada" from 1791 to 1841, then "Canada West" until 1867 although both names were often used interchangeably. The "Upper Canada" term has survived as an historical designation in the naming of institutions that wish to attach to themselves an image of longevity and gravitas. All of the foregoing ought to have been known to a writer who spent much of his life in Windsor ON.
All that said, despite my cavils about matters that most readers may not care about or even notice, I still found the book to be enjoyable and a very worthwhile venture into an important piece of history that is not very widely known today.

Feb 15, 2019

A semi-sequl to Elijah of Buxton, taking place 40 years later. Two boys work together to solve a mystery.

Aug 29, 2016

From this book, I learned that people need to be nice to each other even if it is people with different colour skin.

vpl_childrens Dec 08, 2015

As memorable as Huckleberry Finn, this tale is fraught with foreboding and heart-in-the mouth tension. Like Mark Twain, Curtis mixes humour and high jinks with suspense and evil.

Apr 15, 2015

its a good book

Mar 27, 2015

I liked book. In the beggining it was boring but the ending was very sad when Cooter/ The Madman of Piney Woods dies. Overall I would give this book 3 and a half stars!

Mar 26, 2015

I really liked this book because it showed a lot of emotion. Another good thing about this book was that it showed how "you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover."

Mar 15, 2015

I loved this book so much because it was so descriptive. And you could really understand what the characters looked like.

Mar 12, 2015

I really liked this book. It's a little boring in the beginning but later on in the book it get exciting. I like how the book is told in 2 points of view.

Mar 05, 2015

I love this book even though I have not finished it.

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Apr 14, 2018

thevales thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

SPL_Kids Feb 19, 2015

SPL_Kids thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 10 and 13


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