HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
Author: Gary D. Schmidt
Cover llustrator: Stephanie Dalton Cowan
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers, reissued 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1627656337 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 1627656332 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0544022799 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0544022793 Paperback
Related website(s): http://www.hmhbooks.com (publisher)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: For ages 10 – 12, but I would say 14 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Schmidt, Gary D. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (published in 2004 by Clarion Books, republished in 2013 by Sandpiper, both imprints of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Ave. S., New York City, NY 10003). It is 1911, and thirteen year old Turner Ernest Buckminster III has just moved from Boston, MA, to Phippsburg, ME, with his father, Turner Buckminster II who is the new minister with the First Congregational Church, and his mother. Within fifteen minutes shy of six hours, Turner decides that he hates Phippsburg. He gets into a fight with Deacon Hurd’s son Willis and is beaten up. He throws a stone which accidentally hits the house of Mrs. Cobb who soundly rebukes him. Then he meets Lizzie Bright Griffin, the granddaughter of the preacher on nearby Malaga Island, a poor community founded by former slaves. Despite the town’s, and his father’s, disapproval of their friendship, Turner’s time with Lizzie opens up a whole new world to him, filled with the mystery and wonder of Maine’s rocky coast.
However, Turner and Lizzie soon discover that the racist townspeople, led by the local shipbuilder Mr. Stonecrop, want to force the people to leave Lizzie’s island so that Phippsburg can build a resort and start a lucrative tourist trade. Even Turner’s father seems to go along with them. What will happen to Lizzie, her grandfather, and their friends? Is there anything that Turner can do about the problem? And how will his father react? Though the characters and their situations are for the most part fictional, the book is based on the true story of a community’s destruction and was a Newbery Honor Book in 2005. Along with a plethora of euphemisms (darn, doggone, golly, dang, the words “Jesus,” “God,” and “Lord” are used as exclamations, and the “d” and “h” curse words appear. I still think it unconscionable to include outright profanity and cursing in books aimed at children. There are a couple of references to smoking pipes and cigars. Charles Darwin’s books promoting evolution are mentioned as good reading, and fun is poked at those who don’t accept them. For a book with two ministers in it, there is some questionable theology.
This historical novel highlights a unique friendship during a time of change. It has both heartwarming and heartbreaking moments. The biggest criticism, besides the bad language, is that it is really sad and so many people die. The negativity could make it a potentially depressing book for younger children. However, it does contain thought-provoking material for older children. True, the book doesn’t end happily, and it ends even less happily when the reader learns that the story of Malaga Island is true. So if one is looking for a “happy ending,” it’s in there, and important lessons can be learned, but all of Turner’s pain has to be endured along the way. Author Gary D. Schmidt also wrote the Newbery Honor book The Wednesday Wars. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy is a story that deserves to be told, but, in my opinion, it also deserves a slightly better telling.