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Orphan Island

by Laurel Snyder

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3441658,777 (3.47)6
On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them -- and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again. Today's Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny's best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now -- to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they've always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back -- and take her away forever from the only home she's known?… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Orphan Island hit all the notes for a middle grade novel... but I felt like the real meanings behind this allegorical story were intended for adults.
The setting is mysterious, and never explained. Nine children live on an island, with no adults. The ages are never stated, but clues suggest they must range from 4 to 13. Each year, a mysterious green boat shows up on the island, with a little child in it. The oldest child on the island, who is now 13, must get on the boat and allow it to take them away, into the mists of the sea, to an unknown future. On the island, everything is near perfect. Nature provides food, the animals they share the island with are safe. The island protects them.
The new oldest child on the island becomes the "Elder" when the previous elder leaves in the boat. He or she is then takes on two responsibilities: teaching the next year's Elder what they need to do, and teaching their Care (the new 4 year old) everything that child needs to know. The island has been like this for many years.
But when it is Jinny's turn to leave, she refuses. She loves the island, and she won't leave it. She pulls the boat up onto the shore, and takes over the training of the new child, as well as the one she was already responsible for.
And then things start to go wrong. The safe animals become menacing. Food becomes more scarce. The weather becomes unpredictable. The world is falling apart, and Jinny knows it is her fault, because she refused to do what she had to do.

The novel is about childhood. The island is like good parents are. Always protecting, teaching, and caring for the children on it. But around the age of 13, it is time to stop being a child all the time, and begin to take on more responsibilities. It is time to do things you don't want to do, but which you know you have to do. The bliss and wonder of childhood ends. When Jinny refuses to start growing up and doing what she has to do, everyone suffers. Few children really want to leave the safety and joy of childhood. Yet, it is one thing that we all must do. ( )
1 vote fingerpost | Feb 27, 2021 |
This is a wonderful young adult book. The premise is that nine children live on an island. When a blue boat arrives, one member must leave, and another currently in the boat becomes a new member. When one of the group members refuses to leave when the boat comes for her, major changes occur on the island. ( )
  Whisper1 | Jan 3, 2021 |
I'd come to this book on the strength of several recommendations and glowing reviews. Certainly, it's well-written with an interesting premise. But I found myself flipping through at 3/4, wondering when the story would take off. And then -- the main character violates the rules set out at the beginning and then violates them again at the conclusion -- for no pay off. So -- disappointed. ( )
  MaximusStripus | Jul 7, 2020 |
Unsettling in all the best ways. ( )
  amandabock | Dec 10, 2019 |
Orphan Island initially peaked my interest because of its unique plot: 9 children left on an island, once a year a new child arrives and the oldest child must leave. It seemed interesting. Unfortunately, the book was not up to par with the amazing concept. The first and, in my opinion, greatest issue that this book ran into was pacing. Orphan Island is about 280 pages which is a good length for a middle grade book, but the choices that were made with this page count was poor. Some events would be given pages and pages of time without adding very much while other things were skimmed over very quickly. The first half of the book was good, but once the action got going this book felt like a mess that could have used an extra 50 pages and a more forward editor. Loved the plot, but I just can't get behind the execution. ( )
  lharri41 | Apr 3, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them -- and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again. Today's Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny's best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now -- to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they've always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back -- and take her away forever from the only home she's known?

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