I have not been reading a great deal of children’s books this summer. I have been feeding the adult side of my reading life. I have spent time with Terry Tempest Williams – The Hour of Land and When Women were Birds. I have spend long evenings with garden books like Planting in a Post Wild World and then there are the mystery books like The Bee Keepers Apprentice (a evening or two with Sherlock Holmes). It has been a fun summer of reading what is hidden in my I-Pad that I had not finished or even started.
I did how ever get Orphan Island from the library a few weeks ago. Laurel Snyder was a go to writer when I was teaching 3rd and 4th grade. She has lots of books but the two that I remember were Seven Stories Up and Bigger than a Bread Box. She is a good middle grade writer with engaging stories, books that are not to long and characters that students could connect with.
When Orphan Island showed up on my e-reader and I sat down to read I was not interested. It was fine, the characters believable, the setting and plot a bit odd but I was willing to go with it. We had an island with only children on it. They arrive one at a time by a small green boat. They are scared, young and not sure why or how they get there. When they arrive – the eldest child on the island must leave. They get on the boat and it magically take them away. We don’t know where or how. It just happens!
This community of children care for each other, take on roles to feed, clean and teach each other. They follow the island rules that have been pasted down to them from the older children. They do it without much question. It is just the way things are. Life is good until Jinny begins to wonder why. Why must they leave? Why do the children come? Why are there no parents to help? Why is their life so different from the children in the story books they share?
It is an intriguing plot line. You learn what life is like for this group of children. We see what happens when something changes. We see and feel the fear, frustration and anger of children as they begin to puzzle out the world they live in and they find they have no answers, no one to help them solve this puzzle.
Snyder leaves us with lots of open questions. So much is not answered. She leaves us wondering, seeking answers. When I finished reading I was confused. Is there another book coming? Did I miss something? She helps us with this confusing in a blog she posted over at Nerdy Book club awhile back.
I don’t know what to think about it. Do I like it? I am not sure. It is good writing and it kept me reading, I care about the characters and I continue to think about weeks later.
Will kids like it? I think so – it is how many kids may feel about the world around them. I would love to read it with a group of children and see what they think. Are they ok with all the open questions?
Read it and let me know – what do you think?
Note: over on Good Reads Snyder has shared that she is working on a prequel – The story of the young girl who lived on the island and left the books behind that the children now read. There is a whole world that we know only a little bit about. The adult in my wants answers, want to know about the rest of the world beyond the island. The kid in my seems to understand that are not always easy answers.