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The Islander by Cynthia Rylant
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The Islander

by Cynthia Rylant

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I liked the idea of Daniel finding the mermaid's key and how he finds a purpose on the island rescuing birds. Daniel becomes part of the island's community and learns about his family's tragic past. I wish Rylant had added more scenes with the mermaid. ( )
  SuPendleton | Jul 12, 2014 |
Genre: Fiction
The loss of Daniel's family: loneliness. Living with his grandfather on a remote island: loneliness. Until he meets the mermaid that gives him a special key with special powers that he uses to help others and animals in need. Despite students hurts or loneliness they can acquire strength to overcome anything. ( )
  mozella1970 | Dec 8, 2013 |
“The mermaid must have known that she could trust me. She must have known I had only a grandfather who taught me to read and write and then left me to my own education as he returned to the alder wood he carved for a living.
And read I did, every day and sometimes all night long, and I knew things most boys didn’t know and was ignorant of things most boys are sure of. I knew why heroes sometimes fall and why wise men sometimes do terrible things and where in the world one might actually get a glimpse of heaven. But I could not multiply by seven and did not guess, ever, that stars had names” (Rylant, 1998, p. 4).

Daniel is a lonely boy living with his grandfather on a remote and sparsely populated British Columbia island. Daniel makes a wish to the sea for a friend, and soon after, finds a mermaid’s comb. When the mermaid emerges, she speaks speaks only one word before disappearing: “Daniel,” but Daniel sends her simple, pleading messages in bottles, and she answers them by sending him a magical key. Daniel wears the key around his neck, and finds that it helps him sense creatures that need help – usually injured birds, but one memorable night, a lost and hypothermic girl. His abilities bring him closer to his grandfather, and help build supportive community ties. Years later, Daniel is crushed by grief and loneliness after his grandfather dies suddenly, and a simple wish and the mermaid’s key help him learn more about the tragic death of his grandfather’s young sister, and bring a lost puppy into Daniel’s life. This story is beautifully told, and like most of Cynthia Rylant’s books, is sweet and poignant, and I finished it with tears in my eyes. I am very sorry to learn that this book is out of print.

Curriculum: This would be a great book to use for a character analysis. I would have students use a Multi-flow Map (Thinking Map) to chronicle the character development of Daniel, listing significant events that happen in the narrative, and their effects on Daniel's growth as a character and a young man.

Rylant, C. (1998). The islander. New York: DK Pub.
  AMQS | Jul 11, 2012 |
This book is rather brief in its exploration of plot and character; but somehow the brevity and not explaining in depth helps the story rather than detracts from it. The tone of the book is reminiscent of “The Christmas Box.” It's very calming, vague, and mysterious. Elements of the plot are rather fantastical, but they are introduced in such a matter of fact manner that the reader easily believes in them.
  ECraine | Aug 1, 2010 |
Losing his family and being sent to live with his grandfather on a remote island Daniel finds out what being truly lonely is. That is until he finds a mermaid, who gives him a magical key. The key gives Daniel special powers that help him to find animals and others in need. This book is a short and easy read that would interest a variety of readers. Unfortunately the story skips over a large section of Daniels life that leaves you questioning. This story could help students understand that loneliness and despair can be overcome and that they have the power to help others in need. ( )
  jlarsonhamilton | Mar 27, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 044041542X, Paperback)

After his parents die and he is sent to live in British Columbia, young Daniel has a difficult time coping with his emotions, yet a magical encounter with a mermaid and the gift of a special key placed inside a shell turns his life around. Reprint. AB. K. PW.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:15 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Living with his grandfather on an island off British Columbia, orphaned ten-year-old Daniel feels deep loneliness until the night he meets a mermaid whose identity he tries to learn.

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