* Lizzie Brilliant and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt

* Lizzie Brilliant and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt

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Turner understands himself, his father, colleagues, town and world in this bittersweet coming-of-age story from 1912 in Maine.

* Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt. Clarion, 2004. 217 pages.

Read level: Young adult aged 12-15 years

Recommended for: Young people aged 12-15 years

When gymnast Ernest Buckminster III moves from Boston, Maryland to Phippsburg, Maine, he sincerely hopes the city knows how to play baseball. His father, Reverend Buckminster, who was hired by First Congregational, is seriously starting to do his new job to the fullest. But Phippsburg, Maine, is not at all what the Buckminster family is negotiating for. For starters, they play baseball like no baseball Turner has ever seen. And everyone seems to be vigilant, especially about Turner's ability to be a real "Minister Son". Turner finally meets a friend, Lizzie Bright, only to find out that he is (again) embarrassing his ministerial father. The (white) city does not agree with (black) Lizzie or with her poverty-stricken community on the island of Malaga. Events get out of control of Turner even when he struggles to do the right thing, to love his neighbors (all) and to be a true friend.

Turner and Lizzie don't just represent white and black; They also represent city and country (in this case the island), the establishment and the fringe, the way it was always and how it should and could be. Perhaps the most moving thing is that they represent religion versus real faith. All of this potential conflict is reviving a small town that is slowly dying as it faces the end of the shipping industry that has kept it alive.

Turner grew up in this book. He makes tough decisions, stands up for what he thinks is right, and watches how these “right” decisions still don't end happily. A book that is perfect for 12-14 year olds and that raises big questions. It is not a quick book, but a chewable book. Schmidt's biblical allusions are an additional treat for those who are familiar with biblical competence. Its characterization has been particularly successful in this novel. The audio version of this book is an excellent way to experience it as a family.


  • As with Schmidt's other novels, especially The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now, there is a kind of "muse" for Turner. He spends a good part of his school time translating the Aeneid, and this wonderfully informs his thoughts. He also reads The Origin of Species, which raises interesting points of discussion with his father.
  • There are a lot of deaths in this book, including a dramatic accident that eventually leads to the death of a character. It's a hard book at times, but ultimately a hopeful one.

Overall rating: 5/5

  • Weltanschauung / moral value: 5/5
  • Artistic value: 5/5

Things to consider / discuss

  • When is it okay to stand against a parent?
  • Are there any decisions that Turner has made that you consider particularly remarkable? Was there someone you disagreed with or thought you were stupid?
  • How does Turner love his different neighbors?
  • What should Turner's father have done about the island (Malaga) and its people?
  • Who do you think is the real "enemy" in this book? Who do you think changes most at the end of the book?
  • Any thoughts on looking a whale in the eye?

Related reading from the redeemed reader:

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