A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Orphan Island, by Laurel Snyder (Seven Stories Up), is about a magical island that's home to nine kids. Once in a while a boat arrives leaving a new, little kid and taking the eldest away to parts unknown. As her own turn to leave looms, protagonist Jinny, who's probably about 12, starts to seriously question this blind obedience to the rules and to wonder about the kids who went before them. Many questions are raised, never to be answered -- which a sequel could solve, but none's been announced. There's a lot of internal conflict (staying vs. going, holding on vs. letting go, being responsible vs. being free, etc.) and emotional turmoil, as well as traumatizing moments presented as simply inevitable, including leaving a wailing child behind forever. All of which can be a bit harrowing for sensitive readers, so we're recommending this for 10 and up rather than the publisher's 8 and up.
What's the story?
On ORPHAN ISLAND, everyone knows the verse: "Nine on an island, orphans all / Any more, the sky might fall." Nine kids live a simple life on a magical isle that supplies all their needs, keeps them all safe, and puts on a spectacular light show in the sky every morning and evening. And, every now and then, there's a Changing, as a boat arrives bearing a little kid and leaves taking the eldest kid away, never to be seen again. When her best friend, Deen, leaves, like all the bigger kids before him, Jinny, now the eldest, questions why the kids have always blindly obeyed this rule, without knowing who made it or why, or what's going to happen to them. Soon, the boat will come for her. Then what?
Is it any good?
This coming-of-age fable of kids on an island has a great premise, relatable characters, and heartfelt emotions. Also a habit of raising tantalizing questions only to leave them hanging at book's end. Why do the kids come to the island? Where do they come from? Who sends them? Where do the kids who leave go? Where did the books come from, and who's Abigail? You'll wonder all these things and more, but you'll be none the wiser at story's end. Like The Giving Tree, which comes up early on, Orphan Island provokes strong feelings in readers, whether they love it and think it speaks to their innermost heart, or they can't believe they stuck it out for 288 pages for so little payoff.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Orphan Island and other stories of kids living on their own in some isolated place. Why do you think this is such a popular theme for storytelling? What other examples can you think of?
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to figure out what to do, and you didn't really have enough information to make a decision? What did you do? Was there anyone you could ask for help?
- Author: Laurel Snyder
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Walden Pond Press
- Publication date: May 30, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.