The Lost Language by Claudia Mills

The Lost Language by Claudia Mills. Margaret Ferguson Books, 2021. 9780823450381

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover 

Genre: Realistic; Novel in verse

What did you like about the book? Betsy (Bumble) and Lizard are best friends in 6th grade (both of them are actually named Elizabeth). Betsy is struggling to find her identity with an overbearing mother and a dominant best friend. Betsy’s mother studies lost languages and is always on the hunt for funding to do her research, which affects her moods. Luckily, Betsy has a very steady presence in her carpenter father who is her primary caregiver.  Lizard comes up with an idea; she and Betsy will learn an endangered language and teach it to everyone at their school and then they will surprise Betsy’s mother with their efforts. They pick the language of Guernésiais, a language spoken in Guernsey in the Channel Islands. As in most of their life, Lizard is enthusiastic and Betsy is just along for the ride. Betsy tries something new by trying out for the middle school musical, which results in a new stronger friendship and disdain from Lizard who is a very possessive friend. 

Ultimately, this is a book about a girl who is trying to find her place in the world between domineering personalities and subsuming herself at times to fit into what other people need. 

“I don’t cry about happy things. I mean, / why would you cry about something happy? / And when I cry about sad things, I try not to do it in front of my mom,” … This novel in verse deftly explores toxic relationships, mental health issues, and the white savior mentality. 

Anything you did not like about the book?  No

To whom would you recommend this book? Students who like novels in verse will likely enjoy this book. 

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary and middle school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Novel in verse; realistic

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No, but it is worth your time!

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth, MA

Date of review: January 3, 2022

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