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Orphan Island is as perfect a book about childhood as I’ve read in years. The novel, written by Iowa Writers’ Workshop grad Laurel Snyder, is aimed at middle schoolers but is one of those rare middle-grade books that will as easily speak to adults as it does to kids. It’s a sure contender for the Newbery. It has that hard-to-put-your-finger-on-it- quiet, yet powerful quality that Newbery winners so often have.
The novel opens with a scene of kids running on the beach. Eight kids (it’s always eight) are heading towards the lapping water of the ocean. A bell tolls in the distance. They’re waiting for a small boat carrying a child to arrive on the beach. It’s both an exciting and a melancholy moment, one child arriving means another has to leave.
It takes a little while for the reader to understand the logic of the island; it’s revealed slowly, methodically, and not everything can always be explained. Overtime, the kids have developed their own, delightful language, and it’s a pleasure figuring out what exactly they’re talking about. I don’t want to give too much away, but know that the island is a relatively safe place, a beautiful place with a sky full of swirling pictures to look at every evening, a place where there’s always enough for eight kids to eat.
This is a story, at its core, about the growing up we all must do. And it’s beautifully told and beautifully written.
If you are going to the beach this summer, or just wish you were, Orphan Island would be a wonderful book to bring along to read aloud with the kids, or sneak into their beach bag for them to discover alone, or to just find a few hours before bed and simply savor it yourself.— Kate
A National Book Award Longlist title
"A wondrous book, wise and wild and deeply true." --Kelly Barnhill, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon
"This is one of those books that haunts you long after you read it. Thought-provoking and magical." --Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series
In the tradition of modern-day classics like Sara Pennypacker's Pax and Lois Lowry's The Giver comes a deep, compelling, heartbreaking, and completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island.
On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts.
And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them--and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.
Today's Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny's best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now--to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they've always been.
But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back--and take her away forever from the only home she's known?
"A unique and compelling story about nine children who live with no adults on a mysterious island. Anyone who has ever been scared of leaving their family will love this book" (from the Brightly.com review, which named Orphan Island a best book of 2017).