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Hamilton-Wenham Community Read: 2016 Community Read

Community Read

What is a Community Read?
"One book, one community," as ALA calls it, is the concept of unifying members of a community through the reading and discussion of a common book. It is the chance to bridge ethnic, economic, and social divides and share in the common experience of reading a good book and entering into rich discussion. As Mary McGrory of The Washington Post says "the idea is that the city that opens the same book closes it in greater harmony" ("Too Many Comebacks," 17 Mar. 2002). 

Hamilton-Wenham Community Read
Every fall Hamilton-Wenham Public Library and Gordon College host a Community Read in which the entire community reads, studies, and discusses a common book. The month long book study culminates with an evening with the author.  Gordon has long been a partner with Hamilton-Wenham Public Library in this event, hosting the author and other events related to the book.  Chosen books often have a local connection and can be anything from a graphic novel, to adult fiction, to young adult literature. Noted authors who have appeared in past Community Reads include Tracy Kidder, Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore (writing about Dr. Gordon Sato), and Dwight Jon Zimmerman. 

This year Gordon will be taking an even more active role in the Community Read and are inviting all faculty and staff on campus this summer to read this years book, enter into discussion, and connect with our wider community.  

Throughout the summer and into the fall Jenks Library will be holding a series of three book groups to meet and discuss three of Gary Schmidt's most celebrated young adult novels: Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Wednesday Wars, and Okay For Now.  We will end this three month study with Gary Schmidt's visit to the campus in late October.   

Who should attend?
All members of the Gordon Community are welcome to attend the monthly book group.  Please come having read the book and ready to discuss.  The books we'll be discussing are young adult novels intended for a middle school aged audience.  If you have a middle schooler or high schooler (or an advanced youngster) that you think would like to be part of the group, please encourage them to join. But please keep in mind that although we are reading "kids" books this is intended as an adult discussion. 

What to expect?
Each book group will be held in the Beauregard Mezzanine in Jenks Library. This is intended as a fun, relaxing time in which we can gather together as a community and share in a common experience. Expect to have good, healthy, maybe even challenging discussions, but expect to have fun too!  Erica Street, Instruction/Serials Librarian at Jenks, will be the discussion facilitator. 

Do I have to commit to all three book groups?
No!  Please come as you are able.  We would love it if you were able to attend all three, but do what you can.  However, as a little teaser, his books get better and better!  Note that Wednesday Wars and Okay For Now, while not sequels, do share the same characters.  Anyone seriously interested in getting the "Gary Schmidt experience" would be strongly advised to read these two in order.

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2016 Book Choice

Hamilton-Wenham has selected Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt for their 2016 Community Read.  This fresh and beautifully written young adult historical novel tells the story of a dark time in coastal Maine's past; the story of one community's struggle with race in the early 1900s. Get wrapped in the lives of Turner Buckminster, the new "ministers" kid in small-town Phippsburg, Maine, and Lizzie Bright Griffin, a young African American girl who has lived on near-by Malaga Island all her life.  Gary Schmidt weaves a breathtaking tale of childrens' first encounter with difference, the disillusionment of religion, and the eternal hope of unconditional love and friendship. 

Jenks Library has 10 copies of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy available at the circulation desk. Check out yours today and start reading!

Gordon Book Group Meetings

The Gordon community is invited to take part in three book events from July-September discussing three of Gary Schmidt's most celebrated young adult novels.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
Friday, July 8th, 2016
Jenks Library | Beauregard Mezzanine 
light snacks, tea, and coffee

Wednesday Wars
Monday, August 8th, 2016
Jenks Library | Beauregard Mezzanine 
light snacks, tea, and coffee

Okay for Now
Thursday, September 8th, 2016
Jenks Library | Beauregard Mezzanine 
light snacks, tea, and coffee

Orbiting Jupiter
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Lion's Den | Lane Student Center
bring your own lunch

Copies are available at the Circulation Desk!

Related Events

September through October Hamilton-Wenham Public Library and Gordon will be hosting a series of events about and related to Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Phippsburg, Maine, and Gary Schmidt. 

Related Events

Learn More

Gary D. Schmidt, born in 1957 in Hicksville, New York, is professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He has written thirteen books for children and young adults, most notably Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy which won both the 2005 Newbury Honor and Printz Honor, and Wednesday Wars which won the 2008 Newberry Honor.  His book Okay for Now was a 2011 National Book Award finalist.   

Schmidt attended Gordon College in the late 70s, graduating in 1979 with a degree in English.  He went on to pursue a master's degree in English and Ph.D. in medieval literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He joined the staff at Calvin College in 1985 to teach English and Creative Writing.  

IMAGE CITATION: Schmidt, Gary D. Retreived from 

Learn more about the author:

Author's Magazine interview with Gary Schmidt

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, written in 2004, is a historical novel written for young adults. Based on true events, it tells the story of the 1912 eradication of the black community living on Malaga Island off the coast of Phippsburg, Maine.  Seeking to boost tourism and increase urban development, the people of Phippsburg along with the Maine government removed and destroyed the island community of Malaga Island. Schmidt beautifully illustrates this story through the perspective of two unconventional friends, Phippsburg newcomer Turner Buckminster and Lizzie Bright, a native of Malaga Island.  The two form an unlikely friendship through their shared love of baseball and Maine's wild and rocky coast.  Turner and Lizzie's unlikely friendship is thrown into sharp contrast with the ever increasing tension between the residents of Malaga Island and the Phippsburg's town elders.  

Schmidt grapples with the very real challenges of coming of age in a time of change.  Both Turner and Lizzie experience the sting of adult disapproval and close-mindedness, the disillusionment of religion, and the crippling web of lies spun by the town elders of Phippsburg as they attempt to do all they can to destroy the community on Malaga Island. Yet Schmidt also provides a hopeful portrait of friendship and love amongst difference, and the importance of standing up for what's right.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy won the 2005 Newberry Honor and the 2005 Printz Honor.  It is featured on my middle school reading lists across the country. 

Wednesday Wars, written in 2007, takes place over the 1967-68 school year following the unlikely hero Holling Hoodhood as he navigates his first year in middle school. Holling, while an average kid, is marked as different in his Long Island, New York school because everyone in his school is either Jewish or Catholic. Holling and his family are Presbyterian, which means that every Wednesday when the rest of his classmates are excused from school to attend religious instruction, Holling is left behind with his teacher Mrs. Baker whom he is convinced hates him.

Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the story is permeated with questions of war, discrimination, and difference of opinion. Over the course of the year Holling learns that there are more things to life than the world in front of him.  He witnesses first hand the cruelty of discrimination as he watches a Vietnamese refugee tormented by both his classmates and fellow teachers.  He also experiences the crushing tension and burden from his overbearing father who wants nothing more than to see his son take over their family's architecture firm.  Open-minded, compassionate, and caring Holling Hoodhood navigates the tricky year in middle school, learning the power of compromise, friendship, and his own place in the world.

Wednesday Wars is a 2008 Newberry Award Honor.  

Okay for Nowwritten in 2011, follows Doug Swieteck and his family as they move from Long Island, New York (the same community as Holling Hoodhood's family) to Marysville, a small town in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York.  While not necessarily a sequel to Wednesday Wars it does share many of the same characters and similar themes. 

Even in a new town Doug Swieteck is labeled as a "skinny thug" by many of the towns occupant and his teachers because of his family.  His father is a volatile and abusive, his middle brother is the frequent suspect in many of the towns petty robberies, and his eldest brother has recently returned home from the Vietnam War.  The only person whom Doug gets along with in his house is his mother, a meek, but loving mother despite her circumstances. Again set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, this time Schmidt tells a different story of a war-torn family plagued by loss, recovery, and abuse and one kids attempt to rise above it all.  Doug finds solace in a friend, Lil Spicer, the local library, and the plates of John James Audubon's birds.  

Okay for Now was a 2011 National Book Award finalist.

Want to learn more about the 1912 events between Phippsburg, Maine and Malaga Island which form the setting for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy?  Check out the resources below.  

MPBN's Maine Experience | Ep. 103 "Facing the Past"

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