From School Library Journal
Grade 6-9-From the sad and shameful actual destruction of an island community in 1912, Schmidt weaves an evocative novel. When Turner Buckminster arrives in Phippsburg, ME, it takes him only a few hours to start hating his new home. Friendless and feeling the burden of being the new preacher's son, the 13-year-old is miserable until he meets Lizzie Bright Griffin, the first African American he has ever met and a resident of Malaga Island, an impoverished community settled by freed or possibly escaped slaves. Despite his father's and the town's stern disapproval, Turner spends time with Lizzie, learning the wonders of the Maine coast. For some minor infraction, Turner's father makes the boy visit elderly Mrs. Cobb, reading to her and playing the organ. Lizzie joins him, and this unlikely threesome takes comfort in the music. The racist town elders, trying to attract a lucrative tourist trade, decide to destroy the shacks on Malaga and to remove the community, including 60 graves in their cemetery. The residents are sent to the Home for the Feeble-Minded in Pownal. When Mrs. Cobb dies and leaves her house to Turner, he sets off to bring Lizzie home, only to find that she died shortly after arriving at the institution. Turner stands up to the racism of the town. His father, finally proud of him, stands with him-a position that results in the reverend's death. Although the story is hauntingly sad, there is much humor, too. Schmidt's writing is infused with feeling and rich in imagery. With fully developed, memorable characters and a fascinating, little-known piece of history, this novel will leave a powerful impression on readers.Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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*Starred Review* Gr. 7-12. Turner, the rigid minister's son, doesn't fit in when his family moves from Boston to the small town of Phippsburg on the coast of Maine in 1912. It's not only that Maine baseball is different from the game he knows; he's just plain miserable. Then he makes friends with a smart, lively young teen, Lizzie Griffin, living in a small, impoverished community founded by former slaves on nearby Malaga Island. When the town elders drive Lizzie's people off the island, Turner stands up for them, but he can do nothing. Lizzie eventually dies in an insane asylum. The novel may be too long and detailed for some readers, with every plot strand and character accounted for. But the removal of the Malaga community really happened, and Schmidt weaves that history into a powerful tale of friendship and coming-of-age, adding a lyrical sense of the coastal landscape. Characters are drawn without reverence in this haunting combination of fact and fiction that has a powerful and tragic climax. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved