Friday, February 8, 2008

Lizzie Bright

Yesterday at 4 p.m., I finally sat down to read Gary Schmidt's "Lizzy Bright and the Buckminster Boy," a Newbery Honor book published in 2004. I took a long break to watch two kinds of news, eat dinner, and watch "Survivor," but then refused to go to sleep until I'd finished it.

The book takes off from the actual history of Malaga Island, Maine, at the turn of the century home to several black families. In the book, the business community of nearby Phippsburg wants to clear the island of its shantys and inhabitants to make way for a resort. Young Turner Buckminster, son of the new Phippsburg minister, befriends Lizzie Bright Griffin, the daughter of the Malaga preacher. Turner tries to save Lizzie and her neighbors, one way or another. Tragedy ensues, but also beauty.

It was the character of Turner, of course, who pulled me in on page one and held me to the end. I loved Lizzie, Turner's parents, the evil townspeople and the two old ladies (especially Mrs. Cobb, who evolves). But Turner--such a slave to his better nature, so forthright and brave in the less noticeable ways--is the reason the book is such a prize. It's in first person so you're in his skin from word one. And it's tragic yet uplifting, and funny in an understated way. (It is, after all, set in Maine, where the understated humor can just about kill you.) Those Newbery folks know what they're doing.

Snow update: It's been coming down all day in lackadaisical fashion. I'm going to try skiing around the yard later. Better than nothing.

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