Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
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Philosophical survival story with a bit of humor.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

The young main characters are smart, thoughtful, responsible, often selfless, and hard-working.


A child poisons one man, and smashes another's face with a bowl. A lengthy battle in which a man repeatedly shoots at a boy, wounding him. A boy kills a man with an ax. References to cannibalism, beheadings, skulls.


Mild references to admiring ladies' legs.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and drunkenness. A child drinks and is sick. Part of the plot revolves around making beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the climax of the story is a fight to the death between a man and a young teen, in which the man shoots at and injures the boy. Children kill adults with poison and axes, and a plot point involves the making and drinking of beer.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written bylilahcraig October 31, 2014


This book is about a boy who survives on a deserted island with few companions, and how he learns to create relationships with people he wouldn't normally... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bynoveleater November 7, 2010

A fun read, but a little slow.

Wow. This book is a really interesting novel about surviving on a deserted island. An adult is murdered, by only a kid. (!!!!!!??????)
A kid is shot at multipl... Continue reading

What's the story?

In a world very similar to ours in the pre-industrial era, a tsunami wipes out a south-Pacific island tribe except for one boy, Mau; and a British girl, Ermintrude, is the only survivor of a shipwreck on that island. Together they help care for other refugees who arrive on the island, learn about one another's culture and language, and prepare for the inevitable coming of the cannibal Raiders, who may be helped by mutineers set adrift from Ermintrude's ship before it was wrecked.

Is it any good?

Fans of author Terry Pratchett's other books for children may be surprised by this one. Instead of Discworld, the setting is mostly in the south Pacific a couple of centuries ago. Missing is the riotous humor (though Pratchett being Pratchett, there is always some wit and cleverness) and the fantasy elements. In their place is some pretty deep thinking about the natures and relationships among men and women, gods, and civilizations. Rarely has Pratchett so clearly shown his warm, humanist nature, nor so firmly taken his readers hand in hand down a path towards thinking more deeply about their common humanity. This should be a favorite in literature circles and discussion groups.

All of that philosophy, though, comes at the expense of some of the action, and there are places in this book that bog down a bit; after the exciting opening chapters, the real plot only happens in the second half. But the reader is carried along by some of Pratchett's best characters ever, most especially Mau and Ermintrude. There is little more enthralling than watching young people wrestle with doing the right thing while trying to get a grip on reality. This book may not have everything Pratchett's young fans have learned to expect in his books, but they may get something else they hadn't bargained for.

From the Book:
"Are you from the government?" the captain snapped.

Mr. Black looked surprised. "The government? I am afraid not. Just between us, there is little of the government left at the moment, and what there is is mostly hiding in its cellars. No, to be honest with you, the government has always found it convenient not to know much about us, and I would advise you to do the same."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the many philosophical points

  • the author raises. Why do bad things happen? What is the place of God

  • or gods in the universe and in our lives? Are some cultures superior to

  • others? How is knowledge lost? Why do people do the things they do?

Book details

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