- Age Range: 8 - 12 years
- Grade Level: 3 - 7
- Lexile Measure: 650L (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Walden Pond Press; First Edition, First Printing edition (May 30, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780062443410
- ISBN-13: 978-0062443410
- ASIN: 0062443410
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews: 188 customer ratings
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #366,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Orphan Island Hardcover – May 30, 2017
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From School Library Journal
“Laurel Snyder has written a story that curls around the heart and pulls in tight—a meditation on the power and wisdom and closeness and sorrow of childhood. A wondrous book, wise and wild and deeply true. I loved every second of it.” (Kelly Barnhill, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon)
“An elegant and thoughtful meditation on the joys and sorrows of growing up, with lyrical prose, characters that feel as alive as your dearest friends, and a vivid setting sure to enchant young readers. A work of extraordinary heart.” (Claire Legrand, author of Some Kind of Happiness)
“A visionary, poignant, astonishingly lovely fable of childhood and change. This is a book to lose yourself in, and to never forget.” (Anne Ursu, author of The Real Boy)
“Orphan Island is a masterpiece—both timeless and immediate. Snyder’s book, like the island within it, contains all of the joys, wonders, and terrors of childhood. Every young reader needs this book; every grown reader needs it even more.” (Jonathan Auxier, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Gardener)
This charming, engrossing tale set in a vividly realized world is expertly paced and will appeal to fans of wilderness adventure stories and character-driven relationship novels alike. (Kirkus Reviews)
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I will admit the cover art drew me in. I will admit that it started off okay but soon began to plummet, never rising again to its potential.
[One frame of reference that I hold, that most upper elementary & middle school kids won't, is that I watched the television show LOST. I cannot help but compare this book with that show... an island, unexplained happenings, and the amount of time spent reading this book that I will never get back (and watched that TV series.) And yes, I know all about what the Lost show was *supposed* to be, what it was supposed to convey...it was still time I wasted on an incredibly dumb show.]
You can read more about the plot line of Orphan Island in other reviews as well as the actual book description. Just know that the questions that arise in your head while reading, those don't get resolved within the pages of this book. (Thus, the feeling of wasted time such as having watched all the seasons' episodes of Lost.)
There's a boat. Kids whine, kids cook, kids gather, kids follow "rules." Boat again. And then someone doesn't follow the supposed rules and it all goes to helloishious. More whining. More tears. Some blood. Some rain. And more with the boat. Then the book is over.
I'm all for working out literary devices and literary analysis but only for books that are worthy. Can't say that this is one of them. I can easily appreciate some good writing (I have a few passages highlighted which I may later return to edit & quote here) that stood out to me as good writing. I don't question that. I could imagine the setting and the happenings just fine from the author's chosen words. I just think it wasn't developed well; a handful more chapters might have saved it. Without those, though, the resolution felt rushed and, well, unresolved, making me wish I had never read it.
Worst of all was that I don't believe that Jinny menstruating had a thing to do with the story and I can't imagine anyone (male or female) that would enjoy reading about it in the manner in which it was presented. I would not recommend this book to anyone.
1.) At its outermost superficial story level, the plot interested me from the start. The strange and solemn custom of saying goodbye -- possibly forever -- to the eldest of the islanders provided a gripping, emotional scene.
2.) Just underneath the story arc, the character arc was convincing. Seeing nine children, each at a different point in his or her growth arc, provided a good sense of how quickly children grow, how quickly they change and adapt when put in extenuating circumstances. The fact that they also had varying personalities made them leap from the page, spiced up their interactions immensely. I also liked hearing about characters from the past, how previous islanders like Abby would try to send messages to the future. It was both primitive and resourceful at the same time, which made the mysteries that much more intriguing and page-turning.
3.) A layer deeper, the concept of mentoring the young -- almost parenthood-like -- shone through the story in how Jinny must manage Ess and then Loo. It spoke to the difficulties of parenthood, how much is unforeseen, how exhausting and rewarding it can be all at once. The way Ess reacted to Loo, bonded with Sam, and other interactions seemed realistic for siblings that must cope with a parent's divided attention. It would have been nice to see how Deen interacted with Sam, but Jinny's journey definitely echoed some of the difficulties new parents often express.
4.) The cycle of life -- how the old must leave and make way for the new, how the young must learn to leave the nest and find new friends when they outgrow their parents. The endless march of time. A lot of themes grew naturally from the premise of following rules, becoming self-sufficient and independent, learning on the fly, needing to bond with others of different ages and social ranks. I liked how Laurel Snyder was able to accomplish these relationships without resorting to bloodshed or fisticuffs (a.l.a Lord of the Flies).
5.) The event-based structure of the chapters kept the pages turning. Every day seemed to present some new, imaginative challenge, each believable and self-contained, such as hunting for honey, reading books, venturing onto the cliffs, or catching an inkfish. Kudos to the author for coming up with believable characters and creatures, from the inkfish providing ink for writing and making references to famous books such as Harry Potter and James and the Giant Peach without directly mentioning them by name. Very well done!
6.) Signs -- I liked how every sign could be interpreted or not interpreted, inviting the reader (along with Jinny) to make too much of some of the book's later events. For example, when the kids experience snow for the first time, we as readers almost want to see it as "the sky falling" like the nursery rhyme, but Jinny and Nat do a good job of noting that it's only a sign if you read it that way. In that sense, anything after Jinny's refusal to leave the island could be both a sign or a normal occurence, and that duality - the possibility of multiple readings - lent both insight and intrigue to the story's second half. In that sense, the book seemed both realistic -- something that nature could conceivably throw at the orphans -- and fantastic, in that unseen forces are trying to push for Jinny's departure.
The main negatives that disrupted the reading were a strange baby-like language that Ess used, Loo's inhumane behavior tearing apart a sea star, and Jinny's incessant internal dialogue obsessing over Deen. It would have been nice if Ess didn't talk like such a baby (she's not that far removed from the elders, who speak normally), or if the author didn't constantly refer to Loo like a wild animal. Sometimes, it felt as if the story were being told from the viewpoint of a middle-aged mother, at least in how much surprise was interjected into describing Loo's child-like energy. Also, I wanted to look up to Jinny for her challenges raising Ess and fighting her own desire to stay, but her constant daydreaming of days past with Deen clouded the narrative and gave the story an unnecessarily wistful romantic feel.
This book is AMAZING I think its one of the best books I've ever read. If you expect to find out the secret of the island and what happens, don't read this. Just accept that life goes on, and try to think up of the rest of the story for yourself.
Top international reviews
Aber dann ist Jinny an der Reihe, Älteste zu sein und sich um die kleine Ess zu kümmern. Jinny tut sich schwer mit ihrer "Mutterrolle", insbesondere damit, Ess die wichtigsten Fähigkeiten beizubrigen, die die Kinder lernen müssen: Schwimmen, Nahrung sameln und zubereiten - und Lesen. Sie ist auch die einzige, die Fragen stellt: was passiert mit den Ältesten, nachdem das Boot gekommen ist, sind die Kinder wirklich Waisen, wer hat sie auf die Insel geschickt, und wer war Abigail, eines der ersten Kinder, das hier gelebt hat, deren Name in all ihren hinterlassenen Büchern steht, dem einzigen Besitz der Kinder? Als für Jinny die Zeit kommt, in das Boot zu steigen und die Insel der Kindheit zu verlassen, weigert sie sich - was folgenschwere Auswirkungen auf das Leben der Kinder und auf die Insel selbst hat.
Was mich an Laurel Snyders Metapher über die Kindheit vor allem fasziniert hat, war der Ort, die Insel selbst, und die Einfachheit des Lebens, das die Kinder führen. Die Kleidung, schlichte gewebte Tuniken, wird getragen, bis sie fast vom Leib fällt, die Kinder müssen alles, was sie zum täglichen Leben brauchen, selbst sammeln oder herstellen. Abigails Bücher werden, wenn sie vom vielen Gebrauch unleserlich geworden sind, im Sand begraben und leben von da an nur noch als Geschichten weiter. So ein Leben mit den nötigsten hat, zumidest wenn man darüber liest, durchaus seine Reize, und Begriffe wie Wertigkeit und Achtsamkeit kommen in den Sinn.
Aber ist die Insel ein idyllischer Ort? Die Zeichnung vorne im Buch lässt kaum das Gefühl von Verwunschenheit oder exotischer Behaglichkeit aufkommen, und Abenteuer finden nicht statt in diesem Refugium der Kinder. Das ganze Leben auf der Insel ist, im Gegenteilt, darauf ausgerichtet, früh Verantwortung für andere zu übernehmen und sich auf das Erwachsenewerden vorzubereiten. Insofern ist die Insel, sind ihre ungeschriebenen Gesetze, so unerbittlich und unabwendbar wie das Ende der Kindheit selbst - und was das Erwachsenenleben in petto hält, ist ja tasächlich, aus Kinderperspektive, so ungewiss und so unbekannt wie eine Fahrt in einen steuerlosen Boot.
Es bleiben übrigens sämtliche Fragen, die Jinny, die der Leser, sich stellt, auch am Schluss unbeantwortet. Das ist in dem ganzen Kontext nur folgerichtig und passt zum metaphorischen Charakter des Buches. Mit einer Ausnahme. Nicht ganz ins Bild passen will für mich die Geschichte um Abigail und ihre Bücher, einem Mädchen also, das ganz offensichtlich unter anderen Umständen auf die Insel gelangt ist als die späteren Bewohner, udn das sich, das wird im Laufe des Buches deutlich, auch an seine Mutter gut erinnern kann. Da kommen dann doch im Leser Spekulationen auf, wieso die Kinder, und vom wem, auf die Insel geschickt werden. Es bleibt - das führt hier zu einem Sternabzug - am Ende das Gefühl einer wunderschönen, nachdenklich machenden Geschichte, die aber nicht ganz rund ist. Oder sollte es vielleicht eine Fortsetzung geben, die von Abigail erzählt?