JULY 22:

  • Happy birthday S. E. Hinton (The Outsiders, Rumble Fish), and Carole Byard (Working Cotton).
  • It’s the birth date of Margery Williams (1881-1944), The Velveteen Rabbit.
  • Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), the American poet whose words are on the Statue of Liberty, was born on this day. Read Liberty’s Voice: The Emma Lazarus Story by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Stacy Shuett.
  • Also born on this day was artist Edward Hopper (1882-1967). Read Edward Hopper: Painter of Light and Shadow by Susan Goldman Rubin.
  • In 1620, a group English religious dissenters now known as the Pilgrims boarded a ship named the Mayflower and set sail for what they consider to be the New World. Read …If you Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern and Anna DiVito.
  • Happy birthday to the city of Albany, New York, chartered in 1686. Read River of Dreams: The Story of the Hudson River by Hudson Talbott and Hudson River An Adventure from the Mountains to the Sea by Peter Lourie.
  • It’s Hammock Day. Read The Terrible, Wonderful Tellin’ at Hog Hammock by Kim Siegleson, illustrated by Ereic Velasquez and Moxie Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Giffors, photographs by Valorie Fisher.

I live in New England. During the month of July many of us in the region, as well as those from far away, seek out the beauty of the Maine coast—canoeing or kayaking in coves, sunlight on the water, baseball games, lobster, and fresh blueberry pie. These are just some of the images we all have of small-town Maine in the height of summer.

For Turner Buckminster III, the protagonist of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Maine doesn’t really seem so ideal. The story begins in July of 1912, and Turner, the son of the new Congregational preacher in town, believes that when he looks through the number at the end of his name, he is glancing through prison bars. Coming from the city, he doesn’t know how to play the local brand of baseball, or plunge into the swimming hole, or say or do anything right. Everyone in the small town of Phippsburg tells his father everything Turner does and their opinion about it. But he finally finds a friend: Lizzie Bright Griffin, a smart and adventurous girl who lives in the poor community founded by former slaves on Malaga Island. In this well-researched and beautifully written historical novel, which explores Northern racial prejudice after the Civil War, the residents of the town don’t want a white boy and black girl to be friends—they don’t even want African Americans to be living on the island of Malaga.

The true and heart-wrenching story of Malaga Island is successfully woven into a story of friendship and of a young boy trying to find an acceptable place in a community. Gary D. Schmidt offers no happy solutions—nor did history. The book explores so many important themes: the difference between the words Christians preach and their actions, the right of individuals to be different, and how God can be found in nature.

In this poignant coming-of-age story, Gary Schmidt magnificently re-creates the Maine landscape and the characters of two sensitive young people. If you can’t get to Maine in July, pick up Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy—you will feel like you are visiting this rare and special state when you do.

Here’s a passage from Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy:

Turner Buckminster had lived in Phippsburg, Maine, for fifteen minutes shy of six hours. He had dipped his hand in its waves and licked the salt from his fingers. He had smelled the sharp resin of the pines. He had heard the low rhythm of the bells on the buoys that balanced on the ridges of the sea. He had seen the fine clapboard parsonage beside the church where he was to live, and the small house set a ways beyond it that puzzled him some.

Turner Buckminster had lived in Phippsburg, Maine, for almost six whole hours.

He didn’t know how much longer he could stand it.

Originally posted July 22, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: 20th Century, African American, Award Winning, History, Multicultural, Newbery, Printz, Religion/Spirituality
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy


  1. Ha ha ha ha! (Sorry for laughing aloud, I simply couldn’t help myself!)

    Best children’s book passage I’ve read in a long time!

    This brief excerpt enchanted me … Anita, you keep whispering the most beautiful secrets into our ears every day.

    Thank you.

    Read Aloud Dad

  2. Bookjeannie says:

    Read Aloud Dad: you are so right! Thank you again, Anita! More books to put on my always-growing list.

  3. Jory Hearst says:

    This is a beautiful book. Super bittersweet. (And the thought of the cold Atlantic off the Maine coast sounds so unbelievably perfect to me right, too!)

  4. G.Perry says:

    I’ll be reading this one.

    Would I like to be walking along a Maine shore, dipping my feet in that cold Atlantic water ! It’s 107 as I type. And no, I’m not typing from Old Scratch’s headquarters. (He’s the one married to Old Sniff,)

  5. Anita says:

    Thanks for all the comments. It is a mere 97 in Vermont; I could use some ocean or Lake Champlain myself.

  6. One of my favorites!

  7. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for reminding me that I need to go back and read all that Gary Schmidt has ever written. My first experience with him was Okay for Now and I was blown away. I’ve just gone to the library’s website to request this and The Wednesday Wars! Thanks Anita! (and thank God the weather is back to normal now… that heatwave was horrid!)

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