Turner Buckminster has moved with his family from Boston to Phippsburg, Maine, where his father will be the new minister. Unfortunately for Turner, his first days start off poorly and go downhill from there. A star fast-pitch softball player, he's a washout here, where slow-pitch is the game. When he goes swimming, he's scared to jump into the ocean from the granite outcropping as the other kids do. And then he's accused of walking down the middle of the road half-naked, something not done in a God-fearing town such as Phippsburg.
Thirteen-year-old Lizzie Bright is aptly named, as she is the bright spot in Turner's early days in Maine. An African-American girl living on Malaga Island, a poor community founded by former slaves and just a short dory ride from Phippsburg, Lizzie meets Turner on the beach. Although Turner already feels like a misfit in his new community and wishes he could light out for the Territories like Huckleberry Finn, Lizzie loves her world on the island and wholeheartedly embraces it.
But the frock-coated, good God-fearing men of Phippsburg do not love Malaga Island. Their shipbuilding trade is dying out, and they want to remove the residents of the island and remake their community into a tourist haven. Racism and greed are a powerful and deadly combination, and Turner can do little to stop the adults from destroying Malaga Island.
Since the story is based on a true incident of an island's destruction in 1912, there will not be a happy ending here, but this is Turner Buckminster's tale as much as Malaga Island's, and in Turner we see a coming of age. He comes to realize that there are different ways to rebel, to stand your ground and seek a new world.
Though the story is tragic, Schmidt writes beautifully, with images of nature and scenes of humor that leaven the sadness of the tale. This is a great story that readers will long remember. Copyright 2004 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2005 Spring
In 1911, Maine officials ejected the African-American, Native-American, and foreign-born residents from Malaga Island. This historical incident ignites a rich novel that pits the powerful townspeople against the powerless islanders. Schmidt anchors this tragedy firmly within its historical setting, metaphorically connecting the natural surroundings with religion and society. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2004 #6
In 1911, Maine officials ejected the African-American, Native-American, and foreign-born residents from Malaga Island because they feared their presence would inhibit a projected tourist business. This historical incident ignites a rich novel that introduces Turner Buckminster III, son of a Congregational minister, and Lizzie Bright Griffin, granddaughter of Malaga's preacher. Reverend Buckminster instinctively sides with the church deacons favoring expulsion, but Turner, seeing a different picture of Malaga through his friendship with Lizzie, can't reconcile the injustice of the town's actions with his father's strict code and the religious teachings he's heard all his life. Multiple conflicts, between all manner of the powerful and the powerless -- including father and son, residents and deacons, friend and foe -- create a drama that examines the best and worst of humanity. Schmidt anchors this tragedy firmly within its historical setting, metaphorically connecting the natural surroundings with religion and society, revealing a place where appearances sometimes trump, and often mask, realities, but a place where one boy can see the eye of God in both the body of a whale and the soul of a man. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2004 May #1
The year is 1912, and Turner Buckminster III has a mighty cross to bear: his family has just moved from Boston to Phippsburg, Maine; no one in Maine seems to throw a baseball so he can hit it; and, worst of all, he is the minister's son. His misery is just about complete until he meets Lizzie Bright Griffin, an African-American girl from nearby Malaga Island, who teaches him how to hit a Maine baseball and doesn't hold his parentage against him. But the tide is turning against Malaga Island, a settlement of some 50-plus outcasts, very poor and mostly black: the good elders of Phippsburg want to replace the failing ship-building industry with tourism, and the collective eyesore that is the Malaga community will just have to go. Schmidt takes his time with his tale, spinning gloriously figurative language that brilliantly evokes both place and emotion. Turner himself is a wonderfully rich character, his moral and intellectual growth developing naturally from the boy the reader first meets. There can be no happy ending to this story, but the telling is both beautiful and emotionally honest, both funny and piercingly sad. (Fiction. 11+) Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2005 April
A lyrically written novel set in 1911 tells the story of racial conflict in a small Maine village. Turner has a difficult time fitting into his new community of Phippsburg, particularly because he is the son of the new pastor of the First Congregational Church. He meets Lizzie, an exuberant girl who lives on a nearby island community founded by former slaves. The town fathers pressure Turner's father to force the Malaga community to move, in order to turn their settlement into a tourist spot. The people are driven from their homes, forced to move away, or sent to a nearby institution. Both Turner's father, who finally stands up to the town, and Lizzie die. Turner and his mother stay on, inheriting the house of a local woman who befriended Turner and Lizzie. Nothing was ever built on the island. It remains bare today. The friendships, which cross several generations, are believable and moving. "He felt guilt move toward him like a thickened fog-he could almost see it . . . but the fog embraced Turner like a vampire, and it whispered, You are not one of us." This shameful incident is recounted with sensitivity and humor. Highly Recommended. Beverly Vaughn Hock, Professor of Children's Literature, University of San Francisco, California © 2005 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
School Library Journal Reviews 2004 May
Gr 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 Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2004 August
Turner Buckminster's father moved the family from Boston to become the minister in Phippsburg, Maine. Everything Turner does seems to be wrong in the eyes of his father and the town, and his biggest wrongdoing is befriending Lizzie from Malaga Island, a settlement of slave descendants and others who do not fit in. Despite his father's punishments, Turner continues to grow, maintaining his friendship with Lizzie and her people, and developing relationships in the community and with the sea. When church leaders plan to remove the residents of Malaga Island to develop tourism, Turner's father is called to task in their support. But Turner's conviction that this action is wrong leads his father to oppose the plan as well. Turner inherits a house in town and suggests that the families from Malaga should live there. Doing so brings out the evil in people, and events take a number of nasty and unfortunate turns, ending with a quiet, tragic reality The author bases this story on facts from the early 1900s, telling it with a lyrical style that supports Turner's steady path toward maturity while dealing with racism, religious belief, intellectual development, family ties, and loyalty. There are many subtle dimensions to Turner's progress with grace under pressure as he learns to stand up for what he believes. The strengths and weaknesses of the other characters are strongly reflected in both what they do and what they say. This excellent story reflects the challenges still faced by many contemporary young people.-Patricia Morrow 4Q 3P M J S Copyright 2004 Voya Reviews.