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Reviewed by:
  • Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
  • April Spisak
Snyder, Laurel Orphan Island. Walden Pond/HarperCollins, 2017 [288p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-244341-0 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-244343-4 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys         R Gr. 5-8

In this delightfully strange, quiet novel, nine children are the only inhabitants of a cozy island in a community that follows rules passed down over generations: when the bell rings to announce the boat bringing a new child, the oldest must leave. The idyllic island life of peace and plenty is disrupted when the oldest, Jinny, decides she won't leave when it is her turn. Jinny isn't always easy to like, as she can be inflexible, impatient, and quick to judge, but she is also curious and bright, both good traits as she puzzles through the mystery of why they are there, where they came from, and where they go when they leave. The book offers a lot of ambiguity and many unanswered questions, but there's still plenty of satisfying and atmospheric experience. The sharp ache of the newest little whispering for her mama (none of the older kids remember life before the island), the heavenly afternoons of kids enjoying a feast they worked together to create, or the painstaking care of waterlogged books that are slowly dissolving but provide moments of distraction and community—these are all memorable on their own, and they matter, even if they don't lead the kids toward concrete answers. That's not a bad takeaway, plus the nature descriptions are lush and divine. [End Page 426]