The Madman of Piney Woods (Scholastic Gold) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2019-09-08 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 29 user ratings

" Oh my, oh my. This was such a satisfying, lovely, heartbreakingly beautiful read. I am sorry to leave these characters and Buxton, Ontario. " said.

" Try as I might, I could not get into this. I felt like there were too many plots and too many side stories ,that I couldn't get into any of them. I did enjoy when Red was talking to his grandma about her past, and I loved the relations between the Alstons. The book as a whole though? I could have done without. " said.

" I have to give this one four stars for the quality of writing, but it didn't shine in the areas that are most important to me as a reader. Much like The Mighty Miss Malone, plot was not a strength - it felt like it began about 100 pages too early, meandered for a long time, and never really built up any momentum. " said.

" Meh. Told in alternating chapters narrated by Benji, a black boy living in Buxton, and Red, an Irish boy living in Chatham, this book takes place 30ish years after Elijah of Buxton. The characters weren't as realistic though and didn't grab me as much, and the plot felt contrived. There was too much build up before the two boys met and before everything about the Madman of Piney Woods was revealed.2015 Reading Challenge: A book set in a different country " said.

"In this humbling novel, thirteen-year old Benji Alston is a spirited and sometimes arrogant young boy who aspires to be a cracking young journalist. He has a lot to write about, especially in his town of Buxton, Canada, where neighbors whisper about the Madman of Piney Woods, the former slave who terrorizes anyone who trespasses the forest.

Sensitive and scientist-in-training Red lives on the other side of Piney Woods. Besides dodging blows from his fierce Irish Grandmother O'Toole, Red is also wary of the notorious South Woods Lion Man, the vicious hermit among the trees who will murder anyone whom he crosses. Red's spirits lift when he befriends Benji on a hot summer day. Benji and Red may live on opposite ends of the woods, but their paths will intertwine to uncover friendship and the startling truth.

Young history buffs will enjoy this sweeping book that takes place post American Civil War. Readers will learn about the self inflicting nature of resentment, the healing effects of forgiveness and the power of friendship through the eyes of this fascinating generation.
" said.

"I love every book that Christopher Paul Curtis has written -- and this one did not disappoint! A companion book to Elijah of Buxton, the story is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of two very different teen boys living in Canada about 40 years after the American Civil War. The lives of Benji (African-American) and Red (Irish-American) intersect when they each encounter the strange man rumored for years to be living in the nearby woods. It's a great friendship story (in the tradition of Mark Twain) and effortlessly weaves in facts about Irish immigration and the Civil War. The characters are colorful, well-developed and engaging. Curtis' trademark humor is evident throughout.

It's not necessary to have read Elijah of Buxton although some characters from that book do reappear in this one.

" said.

"The Watsons Go to Birmingham was the debut novel that put Curtis on the map, and he has continued to satisfy readers with his poignant characters and heart-warming stories. In September 2014, Curtis released the companion novel to the Newbery honor book Elijah of Buxton. We return to Buxton with the dual stories of Benji Alston and Red Stockard in Ontario, Canada, an actual town established by slaves leaving America in 1849 as part of the underground railroad. Though their lives are intertwined, they don't actually share a story until later in the novel.

It's 1901, and Benji is pretending to be a Union soldier. Red is spending his Saturdays going into town with his grandmother to get groceries in the neighboring town of Chatham. The boys' lives are similar in their apparent freedoms but not in their physicality. Benji is an African-Canadian while Red is a white immigrant's son. While the woods would normally represent adventure, both Benji and Red have heard the stories of the Madman of Piney Woods. Little do they know that this mysterious man holds the key to their connect their fates. Read my full review at
" said.

"Christopher Paul Curtis is an amazing writer. He keeps giving us important, realistic historical fiction novels that are also suspenseful, funny, poignant and insightful. The Madman of Piney Woods is most definitely in this category. Set in the same Canadian town as Elijah of Buxton, Madman is the story of second generation family descended from runaway slaves. It is also the story of a family of Irish immigrants who fled persecution and starvation in Ireland and settled in a town just outside of Buxton. Madman starts out as two different stories from two different points of view. Benji a Buxton child, and Red, an Irish immigrant, are very different boys living two very different lives until their stories come together in a chance encounter that will change both boys and both families. Curtis weaves facts about the Civil War, Irish famine and prejudice seamlessly through the story without once sounding preachy. He shows characters whose racial hatred is despicable, but also shows how their dark hearts and souls were formed by horrible circumstances and/or a horrible upbringing. Most importantly, he shows how love, respect and acceptance can change a hardened heart. And he does this in a story that is fast paced, entertaining and memorable. I would love to read more of the adventures of Benji and Red. " said.

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