Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt is on the surface a typical new kid on the block book. Turner Buckminster has just moved from Boston to the small community of Phippsburg, Maine in 1911. His father has taken a job as the local pastor. Turner immediately gets into trouble and trouble keeps finding him. He accidentally skips a rock into a neighbor’s fence. He’s caught with his pants down by this same neighbor as he tries to wash blood out of his pants so his parents won’t find out. And he visits Malaga Island, a place where African-Americans live, and befriends a girl named Lizzie Bright Griffin.
The community wants all the island inhabitants to move so they can build a resort on the island. And they are giving the residents no choice. Turner becomes good friends with Lizzie and Turner’s father is beginning to tire of the town trying to force him to side with them. He’s “somewhere between two worlds and drowning because he couldn’t find his way in either one.”
Turner inherits a house in the town and wants to give it to Lizzie. The community is in an uproar. They force the inhabitants to leave and burn their houses down. Turner, distraught, attacks the sheriff of the town. His father comes to his defense but in the struggle takes a bad fall off a cliff. Lizzie has moved away and Turner is left reeling. Can the soul of a whale help?
Great story with twists at the end I would have never predicted. Laugh-out-loud funny as Turner finds himself always in predicaments that land him in trouble. “Maybe it wasn’t such a terrible thing to be a dang fool sometimes. Maybe, he thought, it was just what you were supposed to be.” Touching story of a forbidden friendship. Powerful tale of doing what’s right when the rest of society says no. “Who knows where these ideas will take us. But wouldn’t it be exciting to find out.”
Newbery Honor Book for 2005. You won’t want to miss this one! Highly recommended. Great historical novel of racial divisions. Themes are timeless.