Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy

In 2016 residents of Hamilton and Wenham were invited to read Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, an award-winning tale of friendship set against the racially charged persecution of an island community in early 20th century Maine.

The Book

book cover

Lizzie Bright draws on the true story of Malaga Island, where a community founded by former slaves was forcibly evicted in 1912 at the instigation of a neighboring mainland town.  In this fictionalized account, thirteen-year-old Turner is the son of Reverend Buckminster, newly relocated with his family from Boston to become the Congregationalist minister in Phippsburg, Maine.  Out of place and at odds with the other boys there, Turner develops an unexpected friendship with a girl named Lizzie Bright, who lives on nearby Malaga with her grandfather, but their friendship offends the people of Phippsburg, who want to drive out the islanders and remake Malaga as a lucrative tourist spot.  It is also a challenge to Reverend Buckminster, as a difficult relationship with his son is tested by a town pressuring both of them to get in line.

This story of uncooperative objects and irresistible forces received both the Newbury Honor and the Michael L. Printz Honor awards in 2005.

Reserve your copy of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy today!

Related Events

Click here for a .pdf brochure of events!

Lizzie Bright was optional summer reading for Miles River Middle School students entering the 6th and 7th grades, and was required reading for students entering 8th grade.  It was also read and discussed by three reading groups at our library: the Adult Intermediate ESL Conversation Circle, the Literary Luncheon Group, and the Wednesday Night Book Group.

On Thursday, October 6th, Dr. Robert Brooks discussed Raising Resilient Children and Adolescents in a Stress-filled World at the Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School Auditorium.  Dr. Brooks is the author of 16 books and is a leading speaker on themes of resilience, motivation, school climate, positive work environment, and family relationships.

Kate McBrien, Chief Curator of the Maine Historical Society, visited the library on Thursday, October 20, where she talked about The Forgotten Malaga Community and the history of Maine’s Malaga Island, 42 acres of rocky and rugged coast that the Phippsburg mainlanders eyed for tourism development in the early 20th century. Malaga was settled from 1860-1912, when the hardscrabble, interracial community of about 40 individuals was evicted, despite generations having occupied the island. The residents dismantled and removed their own homes, leaving the school and cemetery to be relocated by the State. Ms. McBrien gave voice to the forgotten Malaga community with photographs, stories, and island artifacts.

The library closed early on Thursday, October 27 so that everybody could reconvene at Gordon College to meet the Keynote Speaker for 2016 Community Read, Gary D. Schmidt.  A reception and book-signing was held from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the Ken Olsen Science Center, after which Dr. Schmidt made his presentation at 7:30 in the A.J. Gordon Memorial Chapel.  A Gordon College Alumnus, class of ’79, he spoke on topics that included the enduring value of children’s literature and the particular needs of middle school readers.  The next morning, on Friday, October 28, Dr. Schmidt gave the Convocation Address at Gordon College, titled “The Messy Messy World of Naaman.”

Gary D. Schmidt

Learn More About the Author

Dr. Schmidt is a prolific children’s and young adult author of 13 books and two scholarly research publications.  He has been awarded the Newbury Honor twice, the Printz Honor, and was a 2011 National Book Award finalist for The Wednesday Wars, titled Okay For Now.

To find out more about Gary D. Schmidt, visit his web site.

Learn More About Malaga

Malaga Island is a real island located in Casco Bay, just off the coast of Phippsburg, Maine.  It was home to a small interracial community in the latter half of the 19th century and at the start of the 20th century.  Some were probably descendants of Benjamin Darling, a former slave who purchased nearby Horse Island in 1794.

As early as the 1890s, efforts were underway in Phippsburg to rid itself of the Malaga Island community. Legal disputes continued until Maine’s state government became involved. In 1905, all of the residents on Malaga Island were named wards of the state and under the jurisdiction of the Governor’s Executive Council.

In 1911, the State of Maine ruled that Malaga Island was owned by the heirs of Eli Perry, formally of Phippsburg. The Perry family filed papers to have the islanders evicted. On December 9, 1911, a doctor and member of Governor Plaisted’s Executive Council signed papers committing eight Malaga Island residents to the Maine School for the Feeble Minded.

Early in 1912, the State of Maine purchased Malaga Island from the Perry family heirs for $400. Residents were told they must vacate the island by July 1, 1912. No alternative homes were provided or suggested, but when Agent Pease arrived on Malaga Island on July 1st, he found all the houses were gone – dismantled and removed by the residents themselves. To complete the eviction, the state exhumed the cemetery remains on Malaga Island, combining seventeen individuals into five caskets, and moved them to the cemetery at the Maine School for the Feeble Minded.
(Maine State Museum | Explore Malaga Island, retrieved June 23, 2016)

No one lives on Malaga today, but archeological work conducted there has yielded more information about the people who lived there and is the subject of two books available from our library:

Everyday Lives: An Interim Report of Archaeological and
Environmental Investigations of Malaga Island, Phippsburg, Maine

Hamilton, Nathan D. and Robert M. Sanford
974.1 Ham

Malaga Island: Fragmented Lives
McBrien, Katherine A.
974.1 MCB

Visit Malaga Island: A Story Best Left Untold for a radio and photo documentary.

Brought To You By…

Hamilton-Wenham Public Library and Gordon College Annual Community Read transparent logo with a lap and an open book

This was a partnership program with gracious assistance provided by the Gordon College community, the Friends of the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library, and the Hamilton-Wenham Public Schools’ Friends groups.

Our co-host for this Community Read was Gordon College.  Gordon has long partnered with with Hamilton-Wenham Public Library in this event, hosting the author and other events related to the book.  To find out more about Gordon College’s role, visit Gordon’s own Jenks Library page for the Community Read.