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4-6th Grade Book Club: Orphan Island

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder is a juvenile fiction novel, probably best for 5-7th graders.


There can only ever be nine children on the island or else the sky will fall–but other than that everything is perfect. The sun always shines, snakes don’t bite, and the children never go to sleep hungry. Only one thing ever changes: every year the boat comes and one young child arrives and the oldest child must depart.

This year’s Changing is no different. The boat comes and Jinny loses her best friend, Deen, becoming the new island Elder with a Care of her own to mind. Jinny knows that it is her responsibility, now, to teach Ess, the new arrival, the ways of the island. But her heart isn’t in it. Why would anyone willing step into the boat and leave the island?

Will Jinny be ready when the time comes to leave the island herself? Time is running short and she will soon find out.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?

  2. The kids are brought up passing down this rhyme: “Nine on an island, orphans all/Any more, the sky might fall.” What do you think this rhyme means and how might it help to “keep” the children from asking questions?

  3. “The island has rules for a reason” (p. 11) and “I might be ready . . . for something else” (p. 12). What do you think Deen means when he says this?

  4. What are some of the signs that they island isn’t just a normal island?

  5. What are the three skills that each Elder must teach to the youngest child and why are they so important?

  6. What is the significance of the pile of shoes?

  7. Who is Abigail? Why do you think she agreed to come to the island? Why do you think the island was created/founded?

  8. What was the turning point of this novel? What changes did you notice when Jinny decides not to leave?

  9. After things started falling apart for Jinny, she becomes conflicted about leaving. Why? Do you think things would get better if she left?

  10. We are left with a lot of questions and a huge cliffhanger. What do you think happens after Jinny leaves the island?

Bonus: If you were stuck on an island, what book would you want to have with you?

STEM Activity: DIY Lava Lamp 


Supplies: Empty bottle or glass; Vegetable Oil; Water; Food Coloring; Alka-Seltzer Tablets.

How to:

  1. Fill your glass or bottle 2/3 of the way with Vegetable Oil.

  2. Fill the rest with water, leaving some room at the top. The water will sink to the bottom of the container because water is heavier (more dense) than Vegetable Oil.

  3. Now add in drops of food coloring. Be generous. No need to shake or stir. You will see that the food coloring only mixes with the water.

  4. Once you are ready, drop in your Alka-Seltzer tablet. You can break it into a few pieces if you want to.

  5. Ta-da! Lava Lamp.

Science: “When you drop in the alka seltzer, it sinks to the bottom and starts dissolving.  As it dissolves, it forms a gas which rises to the top and takes a little of the colored water with it.  The gas bubble breaks on the surface and the colored water sinks back to the bottom.” –No Guilt Mom

Additional Resource: Reading Guide

How’d it go:

I don’t know where everyone was tonight because we had a small group, but overall things went pretty well. We weren’t thrilled with this book, mostly because there were so many unanswered questions. But the kids really seemed to love our STEM activity. I love it when a STEM activity actually works!

That’s all for now!


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