Happy Monday and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE LOST LANGUAGE by Claudia Mills! I’m so excited because today I have an excerpt of the book to share with you! This book is truly amazing and I’m so excited to for you to find out more about it, PLUS enter for a chance to win a print copy!
The Lost Language by Claudia Mills
Published on October 12, 2021 by Margaret Ferguson Books
Genres: Contemporary, Linguistics, Middle Grade
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Author Links: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram
Sixth grader Betsy is the one who informs her best friend, Lizard, that thousands of the world's languages are currently threatened by extinction; Betsy's mother is a linguistics professor working frantically to study dying languages before they are lost forever. But it is Lizard who, gripped by the magnitude of this loss, challenges Betsy, What if, instead of WRITING about dying languages, like your mom, you and I SAVED one instead?
As the girls embark on their quest to learn as much as possible of the near-extinct language of Guernésiais (spoken on the Isle of Guernsey, off the coast of France), their friendship faces unexpected strains. With Lizard increasingly obsessed with the language project, Betsy begins to seek greater independence from her controlling and charismatic friend, as well as from her controlling and charismatic mother. Then tragedy threatens Betsy's life beyond what any words can express, and Lizard does something unthinkable.
Maybe lost friendships, like lost languages, can never be completely saved.
Things I’ve Lost: A Partial List
I took him on vacation
and he got left behind in the hotel bed,
but my dad called and two days later
a lumpy package arrived in the mail,
and the lump was Pooh.
My jacket on the bus
for the class trip to the planetarium.
Well, I almost lost it,
but Lizard noticed in the nick of time
and raced back to our seat
and grabbed it for me.
My special lucky button,
when I had a hole in my pants pocket.
Lizard found that for me, too.
My glasses, in Buddha Delight,
when my mother had already said
she couldn’t handle One More Thing,
and I knew that losing my glasses
would have counted as One More Thing,
but I told my dad, and he took care of it
and my mother never had to know,
so whew for that.
You may have noticed that I got everything back again,
except the pencils,
but everyone loses pencils,
and anyway the world is full of pencils.
You also may have noticed that it’s always
other people who get the lost things back for me.
So what would happen if you lost those people?
Who would help you get them back again?
Two Girls Named Elizabeth
Lizard’s name isn’t really Lizard.
(You probably already knew that.)
But here’s the strange thing. My best friend
and I both have the same name: Elizabeth.
Only she was Liz, and I was Betsy.
(Here’s another strange thing:
How can Betsy be a nickname for Elizabeth?)
But when we started being best friends
in third grade, she said Betsy
was a dumb name and I should be Liz, too.
So for one week, we were both Liz,
which made us the best best friends ever.
Except that it was confusing.
So she said she’d change her name to Lizard,
and I’d be the only Liz, but I said,
in a very small voice, that I’d rather be
the only Betsy, and she gave a big sigh,
and said she’d call me B (for Betsy),
and then it became Bumblebee,
and then it was just Bumble.
Now we’re in sixth grade, and she’s Lizard
to everyone in the world,
even to her parents and her sisters,
even to teachers who sometimes forget that Lizard
isn’t a name teachers should be calling anyone.
And I’m Bumble to her,
but not to anyone else.
So when we’re together,
just the two of us,
we become two girls
named Lizard and Bumble.
What My Mom Thinks of the Name Bumble
She hates it.
The first time she heard
Lizard say, “Bye, Bumble!”
my mom said, “Bumble? ”
And Lizard said, “That’s her nickname.”
My mom said, “Her nickname is Betsy.”
And Lizard said, “Bumble is my nickname for her.”
My mom said, “Bumble, as in blunder?
Bumble, as in stumble? Bumble, as in fumble?
Bumble, as move in an awkward way?
Bumble, as speak in a confused way?”
My mom knows more about words
than anybody I know.
“Bumble like bumblebee,” Lizard said.
“Bumblebees buzzing around beautiful flowers.”
I could tell my mom wanted to tell Lizard not to call me that,
but she didn’t want to be mean to my new best friend.
But every time my mom hears Lizard call me Bumble,
which has been a lot of times over the last three years,
I can see her jaw tighten
with all the things she isn’t saying.
Movers and Shakers
My mother says Lizard
is a mover and shaker.
She didn’t say,
but I know she means,
I’m the one
moved and shaken.
Like This One Time
Lizard was at my house,
sorting little pieces of broken tile
that my father brought from his workshop
to glue onto cheap plastic plates
to turn them into mosaic platters
for a banquet she and I were going to have.
Not a banquet for lots of people,
with roasted pheasant and cups of mead,
like in the book about the Middle Ages
we had just read together.
Just a banquet for the two of us,
with oatmeal raisin cookies and grape juice.
I was picking out some blue and silver
pieces for mine,
but Lizard said we should both make ours
with red and gold.
So I started to put the blue and silver pieces away.
My mother was helping to cover the kitchen table
with newspaper so we wouldn’t get glue on it,
and she said to Lizard,
“Why don’t you make yours the way you want.
And Betsy can make hers the way she wants.”
“Sure,” Lizard said.
Then she added under her breath,
“If Bumble doesn’t care that no kings and queens
would ever have silver platters if they could have gold,
and red goes with gold better than blue does.”
So I made mine red and gold, too.
And I couldn’t tell if my mother was more mad at Lizard
for telling me what to do,
or more disappointed in me
for doing it.
Lizard Can Stand Up to Anybody
Lizard stands up to teachers,
like when she told Mrs. Henderson
that Columbus didn’t discover America
because America had already been discovered
thousands of years earlier
by the people who were already living there
when Columbus showed up with his ships.
She stands up to bullies,
like when she saw some bigger boys
throwing a stone at a bunny
and told them she was going to report them to the SPCA,
which she said was the abbreviation for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,
and they said, “Yeah, right. Go ahead and report us.”
But they dropped their stones and walked away.
She stood up to Clarence Keaton,
who sat behind me in third grade and pulled my braids,
not in a friendly playful way, but hard.
She told him, “A boy pulled Bumble’s braids last year,
and I told on him, and he ended up going to jail,”
which was completely not true,
because we didn’t even know each other in second grade.
And no one would put a second-grade kid
in jail for pulling someone’s hair.
They’d probably get in-school suspension.
But Clarence never pulled my braids again.
It is a very useful thing sometimes to be best friends
with the bravest girl in the school.
Things I’m Afraid Of
Shots at the doctor,
though mainly just the minute before the shot
when I see the nurse coming toward me with the needle.
Getting tests back
when the teacher hands it to me facedown.
Scary music in a movie
when the movie is already scary enough
that I don’t need creepy tones to make it scarier.
Dogs that have rabies.
Dogs that don’t have rabies
but might bite me anyway.
My mother when she’s stressed.
Worms on the sidewalk after it rains.
Mushrooms that sprout up on the lawn after it rains.
when she gets that glint in her eyes
like she’s going to talk me into doing something
I’m going to be sorry for afterward.
how mad she might get
if I didn’t let her talk me into things
I didn’t want to be sorry for afterward.
especially Lizard and my mother,
think I’m a fraidy-cat.
Things Lizard Is Afraid Of
Lizard (and Me) at School
We were both in Mrs. Henderson’s class
in third grade.
Sometimes I wonder how different my life would be
if the person at Sandrock Elementary who decides which kids
to put in each class hadn’t put me and Lizard together.
Who is that person? Is it the principal?
Or the school secretary? Does a computer do the picking?
Or is it Fate, which Lizard says doesn’t exist,
but I think maybe does.
Why else would two girls named Elizabeth
both have braids with blue ribbons on the first day?
My braids were the color people call dishwater blond.
Hers were black like a night with no moon and no stars.
“I hate braids,” Lizard said
(only she wasn’t Lizard yet).
“I think they look dumb. I’m taking mine out.”
And then Lizard didn’t have braids anymore.
I loved my braids, but I said,
“I think they look dumb, too.”
But I didn’t take mine out.
My mother wouldn’t like it
if I came home without them
after she had gone to so much trouble to put them in.
“Yours don’t look as dumb as mine,” Lizard said.
That’s when I started liking Lizard.
And I think that’s when she started liking me.
The Next Year
Lizard and I weren’t in the same class in fourth grade.
I have a feeling my mother said something to somebody
to make that happen.
“I think this is going to be the year you really bloom,”
my mother said.
“I’m excited to see what new friends you’ll make,”
my mother said.
“It’ll be good for you and Lizard to have your own space,”
my mother said.
“Friends don’t have to be joined at the hip, you know,”
my mother said.
I didn’t say anything.
I didn’t want to bloom that year
if blooming meant not being friends with Lizard anymore.
The only friend I wanted was Lizard.
The only space I needed was the space where Lizard was.
Even if we weren’t joined at the hip,
Lizard and I were joined at the heart.
P.S. About Fourth Grade
Lizard and I still saw each other
all the time.
And I didn’t bloom.
Or if I did, nobody noticed,
The Year after That
Lizard and I were together again in fifth grade.
I have a feeling Lizard’s mother said something to somebody
to make that happen.
“My mother thinks you’re a good influence on me,” Lizard said.
Then she laughed. I laughed, too.
As if I could ever influence Lizard about anything.
Now we’re at Southern Peaks Middle School.
School just started,
and we have three classes apart:
language arts, social studies, and our “specials”—
band for Lizard and art for me.
But we have three classes together:
science, math, PE.
Plus lunch. Hooray!
I don’t think anybody’s mother
said anything to anybody
to make this happen.
In middle school Fate—
or the computer—
has a lot more power
than parents do.
Lizard and I have friends
besides each other.
But not a lot.
And not close friends.
Lizard has to be the first at everything.
Most kids aren’t as good as I am at being second.
That sounds strange: being good at being second.
But I think it’s a talent, sort of,
not to mind things other people mind.
I truly don’t mind if I say, “Let’s watch TV
without the sound on and make up the words,”
and Lizard says, “That’s boring,”
even though she’s the one who first thought up doing it,
so who is she to say
it’s boring now that it’s my favorite thing?
(Well, maybe I do mind this a little bit.)
But mostly I don’t care that much what we do,
so long as we do it together.
My mother can speak five languages fluently:
English (duh), French, Italian, German, and Russian.
That’s her job—to know stuff about languages.
She’s a professor of linguistics at the university,
and even though she already speaks
more languages than anyone I know,
she studies other languages
that hardly anyone speaks anymore.
She travels to the places where very old people live
who still speak those languages.
The last people to speak a language
are always old,
because as the world becomes
more and more connected,
young people are the first
to learn new ways of living
and new ways of speaking.
So my mother tries to learn
as much of each dying language as she can:
the words in it,
and the rules for how to put the words together.
She records the old people talking
and writes a book about each language so that when the language is finally lost and forgotten,
there will be at least someone
in the world
who made it possible
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What do you think about The Lost Language? Have you added it to your tbr yet? Let me know in the comments and have a splendiferous day!