Review (plus): ‘Lizzie and the Lost Baby’

Bookshelf Blurb: It doesn’t matter your age when it comes to doing what is right: Lizzie must do what she knows is morally correct, despite what the adults around her say.

LizzieAndTheLostBaby_9780544570993_68a61Ms. America’s Review:

“An afternoon was easily passed as I found myself on a train being evacuated from Hull, England, during the bombing raids of World War II.”

Through her innocent words and actions, Lizzie draws you into her story as she leaves her mother and is placed in the safety of a small, remote village, where she is at the mercy of strangers. Upon Lizzie’s arrival, her new guardian encourages Lizzie and her brother to go outside and explore the Moors; she is happy to do so, as the scenery is vastly different than anything she has ever experienced. The beauty of the Moors is described so eloquently that even the reader can see and smell what Lizzie does.

In her debut novel, Cheryl Blackford has given her readers the  of all five senses as well as the emotions of her characters in Lizzie and the Lost Baby. The stunning aspect of this ability is even more grandiose given that Blackford wrote this emotionally moving and sympathetic novel of friendship and moral battles for middle-grade audiences.  

Blackford has written nonfiction prior to her new historical fiction, and it is evident by her research. She does not bore her readers with facts, but places them such that readers won’t even realize they’re being educated about WWII. This is an impressive feat for the middle-grade reader. If you tell them they are reading history or may even learn something from what they’re reading, they’ll put it back on the shelf and turn on you in mere seconds!

Lizzie is placed in the home of Elsie, who has lost both her husband and her baby, Alice, within the last few years. Elsie is a shell of a woman who is disoriented and defeated by all that has been taken from her. Madge, Elsie’s doting sister and neighbor, places the children with her in hopes of renewing her spirit and making her feel compelled to live again. When Lizzie brings a lost baby home, Elsie embraces the child, and, thinking she is her long-lost baby, begins  calling her Alice. Lizzie knows the girl is not Elsie’s dead baby brought back to life, but is told to keep her mouth shut and let this remain a secret: Elsie can keep the baby.

While Lizzie is mentally working through her dilemma, Elijah, a Gypsy boy from down the road, is also trying to overcome his fears of telling the truth about the bully who forced him to leave his baby sister, Rose. Although Lizzie and Elijah are from different backgrounds, it is apparent they both will have to figure out their inner demons while doing what they know is right both in their hearts–and their heads.

In the classroom:

Across our nation more schools are adopting a ‘Conscious Discipline’ approach on monitoring behavior. One area of this discipline assumes that children know what is morally right and wrong and the child will, given the choice, choose to do what is correct once they are challenged on their behaviors. When the child does not know what is right, the parent/educator is not to stop the behavior, but inquire into the behavior: Why is the person doing the action? What would be the better action to take? In the middle grades, students should have the maturity and developmental reasoning to answer these questions. As seen in our story, Lizzie and the Lost Baby, Lizzie instinctively asks these questions of the adults. She is told to lie, to shut her mouth, to not ask questions. Both Lizzie and Elijah are confounded by the way the adults around them behave. The adults–not other peers–are the bullies. This is not often seen in middle-grade literature; this is a wonderful book to place in the hands of every 6th grader. Adults do pressure children, who are often told not to speak out as adults are always right. If we are to mold this discipline in our schools, we need to educate our students on behavior–as well as our adults.

In the midst of adversity, Lizzie and Elijah do not change their positions, even if it means standing up to their elders and calling them out on wrong actions. Going along with correcting adults, this activity is using CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.1A-, where you, the teacher, are going to type a letter or a story or find a chapter from the book and destroy it with grammatical errors. Have the time of your life omitting punctuation, capitalization, changing tenses and–for the fun of it–change the font in odd places. Let students see how horrible you can make a perfectly wonderful piece of writing, and have them challenge you on your choices. Let them teach you what you have done wrong and why it must be changed. Challenge them to find the rules for punctuation, capitalization and shift changes, and make them teach you. Let the children be right and you be wrong. (All in the name of learning, of course!)

Lizzie and the Lost Baby by Cheryl Blackford (HMH Books for Young Readers | 9780544570993 | January 12, 2016)

America Grelinger

America Grelinger doesn’t mind if you call her Ms. America. It makes her head swell and she loves the title. America is a former English teacher and has a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, now retired to raise two crazy little boys who think the funniest thing on the planet is to burp and toot… which is why she reads. Because it’s cheaper than counseling. Amy and her husband live with those two crazy little boys in Derby, Kansas.