Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy

Common Sense Media says

A preacher's son stands up to a racist town.




Newbery Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The town's racism leads to tragedy, but the main character tries to stand up for what is right.

Positive role models

Turner and Lizzie are creative, dynamic and thoughtful characters who are the moral compass in the unsettling world of the novel.


Several bloody fights, one leading to death.

Not applicable

Some mild swearing.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this tragic novel is based on actual events and offers much for discussion, which might spur readers on to further research. In addition to its depiction of racism in early 20th-century New England, there are relationships of many kinds to explore, moral growth and change in several characters, majority vs. minority rights, and unintended consequences of one's actions. Its lyrical and metaphorical writing are terrific examples for writing classes.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Turner, newly arrived in a small coastal town in Maine where his father is to be the new minister, is immediately an outcast, despised by the children, watched incessantly by the suspicious adults, and ground down by his rigid father. His life is wretched and lonely until he meets Lizzie Bright, granddaughter of the minister on the nearby island of Malaga, an impoverished community of slave descendants. Lizzie is tough, smart, and wise, and with her and her community Turner feels at home in a way he never will in his own home.

But the town wants to attract tourists, and the first step is the elimination of the Malaga community. Turner's father, beset and manipulated by the Deacons of his church, supports their efforts, leaving only Turner to stand up for what is right. But doing the right thing is far more complicated than it seems and, as Lizzie often tells him, he "never can look at things straight."

Is it any good?


This complex and powerful novel deserves its Newbery Honor. Its richness of language and metaphorical meaning, as well as its three-dimensional and evolving characters, are well summed up in a line from the end of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, which the author quotes near the end of the book: "From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

The beautiful and wonderful forms that evolve here are the characters and their relationships and viewpoints, all complex, and all undergoing change. There's Turner, of course, struggling to live up to his father's teachings even when his father doesn't; Mrs. Cobb, a crusty old racist who learns to love a black girl and an ill-mannered boy; Willis, who seems to be a bully but has an ironclad sense of what's right; his father, Deacon Hurd, whose pride goeth before a fall; and many others, a Dickensian wealth of real characters. And evolution is not just individual -- the relationships and understandings between the characters change, and change again. This lovely, heartbreaking, and very real story doesn't always go where you think it will, but in the end it goes to a movingly spiritual place.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the challenges of standing up for something you believe in when popular opinion is against you.

  • Would you have behaved any differently than Turner did if you had been

  • in the same situation?

  • What prompted Turner's father to change his mind

  • about his son's actions?

  • This tale was based on a true story, but which

  • elements were factual -- and which were fictionalized for dramatic

  • effect?

Book details

Author:Gary D. Schmidt
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Clarion Books
Publication date:March 20, 2005
Number of pages:219
Award:Newbery Medal and Honors

This review of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy was written by

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  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written byhola1234567890 December 24, 2010
This book is based on the fate of Malaga Island in Phippsburg, Maine in the early 20th century. It is a deep and intriguing story of racism and friendship. This book broadened my history and view of my community and awareness of how much we have gown in the past hundred years yet the work we still have to do. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy challenges the reader to look upon their own views and conceptions of racism.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old April 17, 2011

good but not good

i do not really understand the book but over all it is a very good book
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old March 7, 2010
I liked the book and read it in a week. The message about racisim is powerful but there is a lot of fights.
What other families should know
Too much violence


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