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Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Newbery Honor Book)

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Book Overview

A 2005 Newbery Honor Book It only takes a few hours for Turner Buckminster to start hating Phippsburg, Maine. No one in town will let him forget that he's a minister's son, even if he doesn't act like... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

The best children's book in years

I teach both children's lit and young adult lit at my university, so I read hundreds of children's books a year. This is the best book to come along for older children in quite awhile; I simply can't fault any aspect of it--style, character development, pacing, plot, honesty--it's all here. As has been pointed out by a couple of other reviewers, it is simply shocking that Kira Kira won the Newbery while this book was a runner-up. When I was grousing about that fact to a librarian, she told me that the Newbery is often won by a compromise book, because the better books have such passionate devotees on the committee that they cancel each other out. I can't help but think that's what happened this year with Lizzie Bright and Al Capone Does My Shirts, both of which are far superior to Kira Kira. The worst thing about Kira Kira is its irritating writer's-workshop postmodern minimalist style--that and I don't think actual children will like the book at all. At my own public library it has languished on the shelf for months, checked out only once--by me. Lizzie Bright, on the other hand, is not only always out, but has a waiting list of potential child readers. If you are a parent or a teacher, order this book immediately. It is destined to be a classic, a real jewel in a sea of mediocrity.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy

Turner Buckminster, late of Boston, is the son of First Congregational's new pastor and doesn't feel welcome in Phippsburg, Maine. When the townies taunt him for his poor batting skills at an impromptu baseball game, he fantasizes about "lighting out for the Territories." Then he meets Lizzie Bright Griffin, an independent Malaga Island girl who improves his baseball, takes him rowing on the bay, and introduces him to the wonders of her island and its natural surroundings. Just off the coast of Phippsburg, her island is an historically black community that the town citizens plan to forcibly remove-in order to make way for the tourist trade. The geographical (the wild Maine coast) and historical (circa 1910) settings of this novel are integral components of the story; Turner and his father discuss Darwin's Origin of the Species, while Lizzie shares her island refuge with her friend. As a punishment for fighting with local bullies, Turner is forced to play the organ for Mrs. Cobb, a crotchety old neighbor. Later, he and Lizzie form an unusual friendship with her. The inhabitants of Malaga Island are forced to leave, and things become desperate for Lizzie when her grandfather dies-she is sent to an institution for the feeble-minded in faraway Pownal. (Anyone who doesn't "fit in" is sent there by the Phippsburg deacons.) When Turner inherits the old woman's house and attempts to move Lizzie into it, tensions escalate, climaxing in a Buckminster family tragedy. In the background of this turmoil, there is the beauty of the natural world, illustrated by the majesty of the gray whales that cruise offshore, the wheeling gulls overhead, and the bracing fragrance of the coastal pines. Schmidt creates sensitive and believable characters that are capable of unexpected acts. He weaves a story rich in historical detail, moral complexity, and regional character that will cause readers to consider the interrelationships between man and nature, young and old, tradition and change. This is a book written for children and young adults about love, loss, and transcendence, and the evolution of natural history and human compassion. It is well-deserving of its Newbery and Printz Honors for 2005. Schmidt reminds us that as nature evolves, so do human beings, emotionally , spiritually, and intellectually.

The price of learning what the whales already know

Having finally finished, "Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy", I see now that the 2005 Newbery year was one filled with books for older child readers. Whether those readers are into racism or autism, the subject matter of the winners was particularly complex and mature. And in none of these winners is the subject more mature than in "Lizzie Bright". Basing this tale on the true events that occurred on Malaga Island, just off the coast of Maine, the story is a thoughtful look at the meaning of racism, friendship, human connection, and loss. It's not going to strike the kids who read it as a cheery devil-may-care book. But its magnificent writing keeps it from becoming another "Kira-kira" sob-fest. In any case, it's the kind of story that'll give you reason enough to stop, think, and consider. According to Turner Buckminster's calculations, he was in his new home of Phippsburg, Maine for approximately fifteen minutes shy of six hours when he realized that, "he didn't know how much longer he could stand it". For one thing, he's the son of the town's new minister. And when you're the minister's son you're expected to be the soul of virtue. Turner's not a bad kid, but he has a heck of a way of getting into trouble. It's only when he escapes to the seacoast and meets Lizzie Bright Griffin that things start to look up. Lizzie's one of the black people living on the tiny island of Malaga, just off the coast of Phippsburg. It's a poor community (this is 1912, after all), but they get by. Unfortunately, the town's been losing money and it seems the Buckminsters have been hired by the city's fathers to help them in their goal of ridding Malaga of its inhabitants so as to set it up as a tourism site. That means throwing Lizzie and all her neighbors off the only home they've ever known. As Turner comes to terms with what it means to shrug off the scandalized eyes of the townspeople, as well as his parents' disapproval, he learns that for all the sorrows life may hand you, there can sometimes be salvation in the blink of a whale's mysterious eye. Now there's some pretty heavy-handed subject matter going on here. You have perfectly nice little old ladies and young lively black kids being carted off to insane asylums (1912 insane asylums at that). You have several major characters die, usually off-camera, without so much as a howdy-doo. You have evil presented as godliness (topical considering the times in which we live), and the good of the almighty dollar aligned with God's supposed will. And that's not even touching on the racism issues, the human rights issues, and the rights children have in the eyes of the law. This is a book about bullies and how one stands up to them. I think what I really loved about "Lizzie Bright" was that Schmidt never took the easy road out. There aren't any miracles here or unexpected changes of heart (save one, but it's believable). People in this book are a set of contradictions, but for all that the

A Quiet Victory

This book is clearly a quiet winner. It is one that slowly catches your attention, and then it will not let it go. The word that keeps entering my mind is quiet. There is racism, religion, and other "ugly" elements to this book yet all of these issues seem somehow quiet to me. I would have liked the friendship of the boy and Lizzie to unravel a bit longer, but I did find it believable. The more I read, the desire to read more became louder. I definately think this is a book that is meant more for older adolescents, but even sixth graders could enjoy it with minimal guidance. Overall, I want to read more from this author and I hope to see more books like this one out.


"From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."--Charles Darwin, THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES "Like angels appearing in the sky,whales are proof of God."--Cynthia Rylant, THE WHALES Because it is based upon a series of true, race-related events in Maine during the early 1900s, LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY might make you think of Karen Hesse's WITNESS. Several of the "good guy" characters--Mrs. Carr and the elder Mrs. Hurd, for example--have a charm reminiscent of the idiosyncratic folk in BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE. But, because of the depth of the evil behind the tragic real events upon which the fictional story of Lizzie and Turner is built, the feelings of despair and anger with which we're left evoke memories of such books as MISSISSIPPI TRIAL, 1955 and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The enchanting Lizzie Bright Griffin, a girl of great strength and few words, belongs to the youngest of many generations of African Americans who have called Malaga Island home. "Lizzie held close against her grandfather as the people of Malaga Island came out from the pine woods, gathered around their preacher on the shore to hear what had been said. Before they turned, Lizzie felt her grandfather ebb as though his soul were passing out of him, the way the last waves of a falling tide pass into still air and are gone. "She took a deep breath, and she wasn't just breathing in the air. She breathed in the waves, the sea grass, the pines, the pale lichens on the granite, the sweet shimmering of the pebbles dragged back and forth in the surf, the fish hawk diving to the waves, the dolphin jumping out of them."She would not ebb."Then she turned with her grandfather to tell the gathering people of Malaga that times had moved on, and they would have to leave their homes." Across the water, on the mainland, Turner is the new kid in town. And even worse--from his perspective--he's the new minister's son. "Turner Buckminster had lived in Phippsburg, Maine, for almost six whole hours."He didn't know how much longer he could stand it." Here, as with the fight over the towers in Elaine Konigsburg's THE OUTCASTS OF 19 SCHUYLER PLACE, the root of conflict involves money and property values. Phippsburg's shipbuilding industry is dying, and the local "boys with the bucks" reckon that tourism may be the source of future prosperity if only the "less desirable" portion of the community can be run out of town. " 'Would you look at that monkey go? Look at her go. She climbing down or falling?' Deacon Hurd watched the last leap to the ground. 'Sheriff Elwell, I believe she thought you might shoot her.'" 'Wouldn't have been any trouble, Mr. Hurd. One less colored in the world.' " The character who is most difficult to decipher in this story of Turner's coming of age is his father. Reverend Buckminster was hired by the church leadership and is supposed to be serving God. However, he is being pulled in various directions: by the white
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