Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

Published by Walden Pond Press

Summary:  When the bell rings on the island inhabited by nine children, a green boat appears out of the mist, carrying a new orphan ashore.  Then the oldest child gets in the boat and leaves for places unknown.  When Deen leaves, Jinny becomes the Elder.  She is in charge of Ess, the little girl who has just arrived in the boat, and must teach her the ways of the island so that Ess will be independent by the time Jinny leaves.  A year goes by, the bell rings again, and the boat returns, this time with a little boy named Loo.  But Jinny can’t bear the thought of leaving.  She pulls the boat onto the shore and announces that she’s staying.  Slowly, things begin to change on the island; the safe routines are disrupted and the idyllic environment is threatened.  When disaster finally strikes, Jinny realizes she has one chance to try to make things right again, even if it means giving up what she wants most of all.  288 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  A beautifully written tale about a kids’ fantasy world that could be a metaphor for growing up or even life and death.  I’ve seen this book on a Newbery list or two.

Cons:  The question of why the children are on the island is never answered, and some readers will undoubtedly find the ambiguous ending unsatisfying, particularly if there isn’t a sequel.  Also, be aware there is a scene where Jinny gets her first period that may be confusing to those who haven’t yet had the “puberty talk”.

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