Want to read a book that makes you cry a little and laugh a lot*? Christopher Paul Curtis's book, Elijah of Buxton is the perfect book. It is also the best example of a character-driven novel I can think of. It's also a wonderful example of "voice." The plot is good, don't get me wrong, but I could listen to Elijah talk about anything for another two hundred pages, if Mr. Curtis would have let me. I loved Elijah. I wanted to step right into the book Thursday Next style and meet him.
Elijah is growing up in the Canadian community of freed and runaway slaves just prior to the U.S. Civil War. He is the first free child born in the community and has a story about that and nearly everything that has happened to his town, his neighbors, and himself. He is also greatly afraid of snakes, but he will tell you all about that right off the bat.
This book isn't all laughs, though. On its deeper level, it's about freedom and slavery, good people who risk their lives and those who risk others' lives for their own.
I promise you when you crack open the book, you won't be able to put it down. And you'll want to step into the book and shake hands with Elijah. This is historical fiction at its very best. Oh yeah, and it won the Newbery Honor in 2008.
* Warning: Do not read at the gym while on the tred-mill or you will laugh yourself right off of it and land on your fanny.