I picked up this book in the Champaign Public Library after having randomly picked up another of Gary Schmidt’s books, The Wednesday Wars (more on this in another post).
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy is a historical fiction about a small town on the coast of Maine that ethnically cleansed itself by evacuating a nearby island (Malaga Island) of the poor, mixed-race, non-white people who lived there. Some of the island’s inhabitants (according to the notes in the book) refused to move, and so were forced to move and sent to the nearby “insane asylum” where they soon died. Heavy stuff.
The story is told from the point of view of a newcomer to town, Turner, the new Minister’s son, who is befriended by Lizzie Bright, an island-girl. Turner and his parents have moved from Boston and are having a hard time fitting themselves into the town, town politics, and the role they are expected to play as the Minister’s family. The majority of the town’s members want the Malaga Island people to leave, and many of them are openly racist when they find that Turner has been spending time with Lizzie Bright. The end of the story is true to history, and history is not a happy place.
This is a thought-provoking, beautiful, uplifting and devastating book. I highly recommend it to anyone (although younger children might not appreciate the story as much). The next time you reach for an “airplane/fluff/lazy summer” book to read, instead of reading a crappy 200 page adult-audience thriller romance, reach for a good 100-page child/youth-audience book. If I could write like Mr. Schmidt, I would stop being a lawyer and create beautiful prose-lenses through which children can see a different world from their own, ideas with which they can play, stories that will open their thoughts. Needless to say, I stayed up late devouring the book, was half-awake for the next half hour thinking about it, reread a few passages the next morning, and then thought about it on and off the next day.
Reading Age: I don’t have it in front of me, so I can’t say with certainty. Random internet sources say grades 6-9, but I read it at the age of 30. My sister read The Hobbit when she was in grade 6, so I would say that precocious readers would be into this book as early as grade 4, because it is simply (and beautifully) written.