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Thursday, February 01, 2018

Beautiful, Multi-layered Orphan Island Offers Plenty of Food for Thought

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although the kids on the island can't remember their lives away, they know they're better off on their island paradise.  After all, their home is a magical place full of beauty, camaraderie, and safety.  They're sheltered, always.  They can't fall off the cliffs—the wind pushes them right back.  They can't be bitten or stung—even the poisonous snakes are docile as lambs.  As long as they follow the rules, the island protects and provides.  

One of the rules dictates that every year a young child arrives mysteriously in a self-propelled green boat.  The oldest islander must then climb into the boat and be steered away, never to be heard from again.  No one knows where the newbies come from or where the Elders go.  They simply welcome those who come and mourn those who leave.  It has always been this way; it will always be this way.  After all, everyone knows the rhyme:  Nine on an island, orphans all, Any more, the sky might fall.

When a new child arrives at the island begging for her "mama," Jinny—the eldest—begins to question everything she's always been told.  Who are she and her friends, really?  Why are they on this strange island?  As Jinny digs for answers, she sets in motion a shocking chain of events that will change everything.

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder is a gorgeously-written middle grade novel that explores a variety of intriguing themes.  Although it's a compelling mystery/adventure with enough action to keep a child's attention, the story's also rich in symbolism and allegory that will please deep-thinking adults.  Multi-layered and mysterious, Orphan Island will keep you guessing, especially since its ending remains open to interpretation.  If you're looking for a read that will provoke lively conversation at your next book club meeting, give this one a go.  I'm not sure I'd consider Orphan Island a favorite of mine, but it's definitely worthy of an A grade.  Even months after reading it, I'm still pondering all its possible meanings. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Giver by Lois LowryThe Maze Runner by James Dashner, and of the The Truman Show)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I borrowed a copy of Orphan Island from my daughter's elementary school as part of my volunteer work with the school's reading program.


  1. I’ve heard good things about this one. I need to get a copy.

    1. It's a unique book. I'll be interested to see what you think.

  2. This book sounds so different from everything else out there and now I want to know where the kids come from and where they go when they leave.

  3. I like the sound of this one and had heard about it. Off to see if my library has it - bet they do! Thanks and anytime I see an A from you, I feel it's worth checking out. You're a tough grader. LOL

    1. I hope you love it! It's definitely a different kind of book. Also underrated, I feel like. I'm glad you have actually heard of it :)

  4. Oh this sounds fascinating! I've been trying to find new Middle Grade and this sounds fascinating. A little like Lost but hopefully it makes a bit more sense! I'm definitely adding it to my TBR. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yes, definitely a little like Lost. It's multi-layered in sort of the same way, too.

  5. This is good to know. It sounds like it would be a good book to read for our book club. Thanks for the recommendation.


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