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Orphan Island

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder is a juvenile fiction book probably most appropriate for 5-7 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.

I gave the kids for my book club a list of three books that I was thinking of choosing for our monthly book club, with the caveat that I hadn’t read them yet and we would be surprised together. From my descriptions this is the one they chose and I was sort of surprised by it and also delighted because this was the one I wanted to read.

And boy is there a lot to talk about with this one. Especially because the reader isn’t sure what is happening, just like the kids on the island. We are never “in the know.” Even the ending leaves you with no real resolution. It is up to the reader to decide where the story goes. I am wondering if this might be somewhat off-putting for some of my readers because one of the reasons I kept reading was to find out what was really going on… and you never do!

There are a few spots that deal with the harsh realities of growing up–puberty and all that comes with it–that I can image several of my boy readers going “ewwww.” But I warned them I didn’t pre-read the book, so it is what it is.

Ultimately, this is a great book for a book club because we can make guesses and talk a lot about what foreshadowing we saw and what we would do in certain situations. And I think there is appeal for both boys and girls, though it probably bends toward the girls more.

Maze Runner meets Blue Lagoon but for kids. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!


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