Mills, Claudia

The Lost Language

(2) 4-6 This verse novel is told in first person by one of a pair of sixth-grade best friends, both named Elizabeth. Narrator Betsy makes it clear from the beginning that her friend Lizard is more than a little bossy, as when she decides that Betsy was a "dumb name," eventually settling on Bumble as a better nickname. Betsy is also keenly aware that her brilliant linguist mother dislikes the nickname: "Every time my mom hears Lizard call me Bumble... / I can see her jaw tighten / with all the things she isn't saying." She realizes that her mom wants her to make her own decisions and not defer so often, but Betsy is comfortable in her role: "Lizard has to be the first at everything. / Most kids aren't as good as I am at being second." But friction arises between the two when Betsy wins a role in the school play and forms a new friendship; this eventually leads to a deep rift when Lizard reveals to their lunchmates that Betsy's mother is in the hospital following a suicide attempt. Mills uses poetry effectively to strip the layers away, conveying painful emotions in simple words that pack a punch: "Now Lizard doesn't have me / And I don't have her, / And we're never going / to have each other again." The format allows the titles of the poems to add their own little twists. The topic of a parent's suicide attempt is handled with sensitivity and compassion, and all the emotions ring true.


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