Maggie Guest Reviews Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

Maggie Guest postsMaggie and I just finished reading Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr last night, which was a re-read for me, but a first read for her since she fell asleep on it last year and never picked it back up.  I enjoyed it more this time around, and wonder if it was because I haven’t recently seen the movie, or that I saw things this time I didn’t before, or that it was the wide-eyed (most of the time), often giggling girl cuddling beside me.  Maybe it was all three, but I’m thinking it was the last that increased my enjoyment the most ;-)

Since I reviewed it in 2008, I thought it’d be a perfect chance for Mags to do her first official review.  She has given a paragraph here and there on different books that we’ve read together about what she thought of a book, but never the whole review.  So, take it away Maggie!

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Nim's Island with MaggieMy mom is making do this, I want to play and this is boring and stupid, but she’s making me sit here and write this with her. 

So why did I read Nim’s Island?  “Because I wanted to” isn’t enough, mom says, so I guess I have to say more.  At school we do Accelerated Reader.  You get points for reading books and you get prizes and it goes on your report card.  Also, if I don’t meet my point goals, I can’t play computer games.  With Nim’s Island‘s 3 points, I’ll have 46 points.  I want to get 100 points by the end of the year, I’m trying to get mom to read Twilight with me, it’s worth like 20 points or something :-D

Nim’s Island is about a girl named Nim who lives on an island with her dad, Jack.  Her dad leaves her alone while he goes to study plankton.  He only means to be gone for 3 days, but then a storm hit and his boat got broke, and he couldn’t get back to her.  He let Nim know what happened by hooking up a note on Nim’s bird named Galileo.  While he was gone, they got an email from Alex Rover, who is the author of the adventure books Nim loves.  Having someone to talk to makes Nim feel less alone and happy to have a friend.  When Alex finds out that Nim is alone, she comes to the island immediately, even though it was hard for Alex to even leave her apartment because she’s afraid of everything, even just going outside.

Five things I liked about the book:

  1. I liked Fred, the iguana, best.  He’s so funny.  He always forgets he doesn’t like banana and takes a bite of Nim’s then spits it out and then Nim’s too grossed out to eat the banana. 
  2. The book was funny.  When Fred got mad, he swam down to the bottom of the pool and hid under a rock.
  3. It was cool that they lived on an island.  I’d love to live on an island and swim in the ocean whenever I wanted.  And she didn’t have to sit in a boring classroom for school, but got to sit outside and learn about nature and stars and how to talk to the seals.
  4. It was a short book.
  5. I liked the pictures in the book.

Things I didn’t like:

  • I didn’t like that Nim was left alone.  It’s bad to leave kids alone.  It made me feel sad that she didn’t have anybody to share the coconut pearl with or to comfort her when her knee got hurt. 
  • I didn’t like it when my mom teased me and said she was going to stop in the middle of the storm, in the middle of a sentence.  This is what she did:

“The water was up to Alex’s waist, then her chest, and up to her neck; she was spluttering and ducking, and… “

Okay, time for bed.

I threatened to bite her if she didn’t finish.  She finished.

  • Did I mention I didn’t like writing a review?

I give Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr 4 out of 5 stars.  Okay, that’s all I can think of, so I guess I’m done. 

YAY! I’m FREE!!!!

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I’m counting Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr as part of my We Didn’t Start the Fire Challenge 2010 under “South Pacific”.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryTitle:  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Author:  Roald Dahl

Paperback:  176 pages

Published:  1964

ISBN:  0140328696

acquired:  I bought it at our St. Vincent DePaul thrift store.

Challenges:  Welsh Reading Challenge

“I stood there shouting, ‘Burp, you silly ass, burp, or you’ll never come down again!” -Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, page 112

For me, this was either my second or third reading of Roald Dahl‘s children’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  I remember reading it a few years ago with the kids, but I’m not sure if I read it by myself as a kid.  But whatever the number of reads, it is easy to say this book is fantastic fun… especially to read aloud with a child.  As Mags and I read it, we took breaks at the departure of each child to watch the particular scene from the Tim Burton’s movie adaptation (and occasionally from the Gene Wilder version, as well). 

Most people know the basic premise of the story:  Charlie Bucket and his family are very poor, barely having enough money for food, let alone candy.  Little Charlie gets one chocolate bar a year for his birthday, which is falls a few days after Willy Wonka, greatest candy-maker EVER, announces that he has placed a golden ticket in just FIVE of his candies, and these tickets will grant the winning child and up to two parents entry into his mysterious and fantastic factory, as well as a lifetime supply of chocolate.  Charlie and Grandpa Joe hold out hope that they have just as much chance to get a ticket as anyone, and when the first four tickets are found by beastly, spoiled, selfish children, they almost give up.  But then Charlie spots a dollar bill half buried in the snow, and rushes to buy a couple of Wonka’s Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delights, saving the rest of the money for his family, and finds the ticket in the second bar. 

Roald Dahl creates a world in which children aren’t safe, which I think appeals to kids because they DON’T feel safe.  In their particular position, they’re subject to the whims and fancies of the adults around them and have very little control over their lives.  Readers, particularly young readers, see these over-indulged children who get everything they want which, at first blush, is something most kids would love.  However, as the book progresses, we watch as each child suffers an accident which their own self-centeredness is a direct cause.  Violet rips the meal-in-a-gum from the drawer and chews it, ignoring Wonka’s warnings, and ends up a giant blueberry.  Veruca Salt refuses to take NO for an answer, in fact is inflamed by being told she can’t have one of Wonka’s squirrels, and goes in the nut room to claim one anyone, ending up tossed into the garbage chute by leader of the squirrels who judges her to be a “bad nut”.  In the end it is the considerate and well-behaved Charlie who is rewarded.  Even when Dahl shows the children leaving the factory in one piece, they are still not escaping unscathed, but instead will retain some scarring for the rest of their lives.  Violet, for instance, is still purple, while Mike Teavee has been over-stretched and is now very tall and thin, about whom Wonka makes an almost-callous remark that every basketball team in the country will want him.  I think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory could fit in the fable category, as it is a cautionary tale with a lesson.

The best part of this book, in my opinion, was cuddling up with Maggie, who is ten and won’t let me do this much longer.  She’s in her last semester of Elementary school and will, no doubt, be “too cool” to lay in bed, snuggling and being read to by her mom.  Part of the book was also read at the library, which drew attention from a few people, which gave Mags the chance to tell them about the book.  I will always have warm memories of this book, which was even good enough to draw my 15-year-old into the room for her favorite part, which is the quote I included.  For all these things, and for making me fee like a kid again while reading it, I give Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl 5 out of 5 candy stars :-)

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This book is my first book read for The Welsh Reading Challenge 2010.  Roald Dahl was born in Llandaff, Wales, which is part of the Cardiff cosmopolitan area.  Roald Dahl day is September 13th, his birthday, every year. Check out The Official Roald Dahl website where you can learn more about the author, his books and even play games.  Mags and I did the Wonkanator, a math game, and the “find the differences” game for a while this morning before she left for school, taking the book with her.

Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng

Title:  Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism

Author:  Georgia Byng

Paperback:  373 pages

ISBN:  0439567300

Orphan Molly Moon hates living in Hardwick House.  For starters, the orphanage is run by hairy-faced Miss Adderstone, who makes Molly clean the toilets with her toothbrush.  Mean Hazel Hackersly torments her, and to make matters worse, Molly’s best friend Rocky has just been adopted and is moving to New York City!

But when Molly stumbles upon a mysterious old book on hypnotism, her world is suddenly turned upside down.  With a dazzling flash of her bright green eyes, she discovers that she has the amazing power to make people do things — crazy things.  There’s nothing holding Molly back now, and what better place to begin her adventures than in spectacular New York City as a Broadway superstar?

What Molly doesn’t know is that a sinister stranger is following her with dastardly plans of his own.

-from the first page of Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng

Okay, this was NOT the best book to pick right after reading The Glass Castle, a book about real child abuse and neglect.  I just couldn’t help thinking about the Walls children, and whether they would have appreciated life at Hardwick, or whether Molly would have preferred being a Walls.  Hard to say, both books had hard living for children as a central theme.  Whereas the Walls experience was an inescapable reality, Molly’s is an average child’s fantasy.  “Oh, how I wish I could get back at Mom for making me eat lima beans.  She knows I hate them, that’s why she gives it to me!”  The idea of being able to get revenge for being served vegetables they hate and being force-marched to bed at 9 o’clock makes Molly Moon a fun and silly read for the 8-12 crowd.

I also made the mistake of reading it by myself.  It was actually a restart.  Mags and I had started reading it last spring and had to set it aside when we were 1/3 the way through while she went to visit her dad.  We never picked it back up, and I figured it’d be a quick book to help me hit my 75-book goal (this one makes number 68, only 7 to go :-D )  I remember we’d laughed and laughed until tears came into our eyes and my throat was hoarse from doing the voices and cackling so much.  Without her, however, I only chuckled a couple times and found myself wishing I was sharing it with her.  Children lend their magic to some books, a magic we adults seem to have lost.

I do plan on re-reading it with Mags, all the way through.  But as it stands now, I give Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng 3 out of 5.  I read someone’s review that said how Molly was an unlikeable character, but I disagree with that.  Molly is a fairly blank character, with as little of her own personality and quirks as could be gotten away with.  This isn’t a bad thing, in this case, because what she provides is a template for kids to put themselves in her shoes.  She’s not blank as in “underdeveloped”, rather like a costume has nothing inside.  Which makes me wonder what the reviewer didn’t like about her… hmm…

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Title:  The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Author:  John Boyne

Paperback:  215 pages

ISBN:  9780552773805

Book Challenges:  War Through the Generations World War II Reading Challenge

‘I’m Shmuel,’ said the little boy.

Bruno scrunched up his face, not sure that he had heard the little boy right.  ‘What did you say your name was?’ he asked.

‘Shmuel,’ said the little boy as if it was the most natural thing in the world.  ‘What did you say your name was?’

‘Bruno,’ said Bruno.

‘I’ve never heard of that name,’ said Shmuel.

‘And I’ve never heard of your name,’ said Bruno.  ‘Shmuel.’  He thought about it.  ‘Shmuel,’ he repeated.  ‘I like the way it sounds when I say it.  Shmuel.  It sounds like the wind blowing.’

‘Bruno,’ said Shmuel, nodding his head happily.  ‘Yes, I think I like your name too.  It sounds like someone who’s rubbing their arms to keep warm…  I’m nine,’ he said.  ‘My birthday is April the fifteenth nineteen thirty-four.’

Bruno’s eyes opened wide and his mouth made the shape of an O.  ‘I don’t believe it,’ he said… ‘my birthday is april the fifteenth too.  And I was born in nineteen thirty-four.  We were born on the same day… We’re like twins,’ said Bruno.

-The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, pages 109-110

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne is a story of friendship told through the eyes of Bruno, the nine-year-old son of a concentration camp Commandant.  Uprooted from friends and the only home he’s ever known, Bruno hates his new home in “Out-With,” his mispronunciation of Auschwitz, and makes sure everyone knows it.  But one day, when he goes out exploring the area around his house, he meets a boy his own age on the other side of the fence where everyone wears striped pyjamas all day.  The two quickly become friends, and meet as often as possible at the same time and spot everyday from then on.

One of the things I like about this book is Boyne’s layered subtleties.  Bruno, the naive and sheltered innocent, passes along clues of his mother’s infidelity, drinking and depression, as well as the competition that goes on between Gretel, his twelve-turning-thirteen year-old sister, and his mother for the attention of the young Lieutenant Koltor.  Bruno witnesses but can’t quite grasp the difference between him and his family and the people on the other side of the fence, asking different people about it with varying degrees of failure to get a satisfactory answer.  His father tells him the others aren’t people -not really, not in the way we think of.  The Lieutenant calls them a derogatory name that is never passed along in the book.  Gretel comes the closest to answering him, failing only because she herself doesn’t understand it, either, telling him that the people on the other side were Jews and they were The Opposite, and The Opposite hate the Jews.

There are a few things that just got under my skin with this book, however.  For instance, if these people are German, then I assume they speak German in their thoughts as well as conversations with one another.  I found it mildly irritating that Bruno would think “Auschwitz” would sound like “Aus mit” (the direct translation “Out-with”).  Or that he would hear “Der Führer” and think people were calling Hitler “Das Wut”.  Also, there are a lot of repetition in the book.  Okay, I get it… Father’s office is “Out of bounds at all times with no exceptions.”  I got that the first time.  And I caught it on page 1 that Bruno had some stuff that belonged to him and were nobody else’s business.  Another thing I really wish Boyne had added to the book was how Bruno and Shmuel would have spent their birthday.  No doubt Bruno would have had a party with cake and a big dinner, but how would he have shared the special day with his “twin”?

Boyne’s storytelling in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is reminiscent of Scout’s recounting in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, though not as well-done nor is Bruno as developed as a character as Scout was.  In Boyne’s attempt to reach as broad an audience as possible, the story is a bit like thin gruel.  Everyone can digest it, but it hasn’t got very much flavor.  If you are looking for a good book that glimpses the lives of the people during Nazi Germany, I’d recommend The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  The writing is magical, the storytelling point-of-view is unique, and the depth of even the tertiary characters are better than Bruno’s.

Still, I’m passing this book on to my kids.  I think it’s a good book to introduce young and reluctant readers to the subjects:  The Holocaust, racism, hate, friendship, loyalty, love.  I think 4th and 5th graders, particularly boys of that age, would enjoy this book the most.  For me, a mom with a children the same ages as Bruno and Gretel (not to mention the same relationship as the bickering siblings, as well), I found Bruno to be an exasperatingly annoying little whiner at times. 

I give The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne 3 out of 5 stars.  It’s an acceptable read, but for me, as forgettable as Bruno found his three best friends for life.   In a year, I doubt I’ll even remember their names.

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In 2008, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was made into a movie.  I’ll have to put it on the top of my Netflix Queue, it looks fairly good.  Maybe they’ll address the birthday issue for me in it.

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

Title:  The Last Battle

Author:  C. S. Lewis

Paperback:  767 pages

Publisher:  HarperCollins

Publish Date:  2001

ISBN:  0066238501

Miscellaneous:  The copy I have read is in a complete book.  There aren’t 767 pages in The Last Battle alone.

 

 

 

“Look!  What’s that?”

 “What’s what?” said Puzzle.

 “That yellow thing that’s just come down the waterfall.  Look!  There it is again, it’s floating.  We must find out what it is.”

 “Must we?” said Puzzle.

 “Of course we must,” said Shift.  “It may be something useful.  Just hop into the Pool like a good fellow and fish it out.  Then we can have a proper look at it.”

 … He flung it down in front of Shift and stood dripping and shivering and trying to get his breath back.  But the Ape never looked at him or asked him how he felt.  The Ape was too busy going round and round the thing and spreading it out and patting it and smelling it.  Then a wicked gleam came into his eye and he said:  “It is a lion’s skin…. We’ll make this skin into a fine warm winter coat for you.”

 …As soon as he was alone Shift went… into his little house.  He found needle and thread and a big pair of scissors… Then he came down the tree and shambled across to the lion-skin.  He squatted down and got to work…

 Late in the afternoon Puzzle came back.  He was not trotting but only plodding patiently along, the way donkeys do…  “Come and try on your beautiful new lion-skin coat,” said Shift.

 … The skin was very heavy for him to lift, but in the end… he got it on to the donkey… No one who had ever seen a real lion would have been taken in for a moment.  But if someone who had never seen a lion looked at Puzzle in his lion-skin he just might mistake him for a lion…  “If anyone saw you now, they’d think you were Aslan, the Great Lion, himself.”

 

-The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, pages 671-673

 

Thus begins the great deception and the beginning of the end of Narnia.  Shift the Ape manipulates and bullies Puzzle the Donkey into believing that Aslan himself wants them to go to the people of Narnia and claim Puzzle is really the Great Lion, and to rule the land through this pretense.  Puzzle has been used by Shift for so long (under the guise of “friendship,” though “servitude” might better describe the Donkey’s side of the relationship), that he is unable to stand up to the damn, dirty Ape (nod to Heston and “Planet of the Apes” hehe).

It is through this false-Aslan that Shift enslaves the land of Narnia, using the Animals as slaves and threatening anyone who dares to question his authority with the Wrath of Aslan.  “He is not a tame lion” is repeated over and over to fill their minds with terror, and, even when they know this new “Aslan” is the opposite of everything they’ve always been taught is the nature of the true Aslan, the Narnians are unable to throw off the Ape’s bonds and fight back.

Even when Shift brings in Calormene soldiers and announces that the Narnian Animals are to be sent to work, and all their wages are to be paid to “Aslan’s” treasury, for only “Aslan” can care for their true needs.  Compounding a lie with a lie, the Calormene Captain and Shift tell the Animals that Tash, the Calormene god to whom men are sacrificed, and Aslan are one in the same; two different names for the same person.  This new god is called “Tashlan,” the meshing of the two names.

When Tirian, the last King of Narnia, calls on Aslan to rescue his country, the Great Lion is silent, so Tirian, remembering how children from another world had saved Narnia in it’s darkest periods of history, calls on the friends of Narnia to come and save his land.  And, after a vision-dream of the seven legendary Friends sitting down to dinner and seeing the phantom of Tirian among them, he is surprised by the appearance of Jill and Eustace.  Along with Jewel the Unicorn, who is Tirian’s best friend, the two children and a Dwarf named Poggin, the stage is set for the last battle of Narnia.

 

In the shadow of the trees on the far side of the clearing something was moving.  It was gliding very slowly Northward.  At a first glance you might have mistaken it for smoke, for it was grey and you could see things through it.  But the deathly smell was not the smell of smoke.  Also, this thing kept its shape instead of billowing and curling as smoke would have done.  It was roughly the shape of a man but it had the head of a bird; some bird of prey with a cruel, curved beak.  It had four arms which it held high above its head, stretching them out Northward as if it wanted to snatch all Narnia in its grip; and its fingers – all twenty of them – were curved like its beak and had long, pointed, bird-like claws instead of nails.  It floated on the grass instead of walking, and the grass seemed to wither beneath it…. [They] watched it… until it streamed away… and disappeared.  Then the sun came out again, and the birds once more began to sing….

“I have seen it once before,” said Tirian. “But that time it was carved in stone and overlaid with gold and had solid diamonds for eyes…. [It was in] the great temple of Tash… carved above the altar.”

“What was it?” said Eustace in a whisper.

 

-The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 712

 

 The entrance of the Calormene god Tash takes this final fight into the realm of the supernatural, as it becomes the epic battle of the ultimate good, Aslan, and his antithesis Tash:  Life versus Death.

 The message of The Last Battle, I believe, is this:  We are not always meant to win the good fight, only to FIGHT the good fight.  Early on in the book we know this is a lost cause, the side of evil will prevail, and the heroes’ lives  will be forfeit.  But, even then, Aslan will have the final say.

 In The Last Battle, Lewis also addresses two major questions of Christianity.  First, how can a person who has known the goodness and greatness of Christ turn his or her back on Him, choosing, instead, their own will.  Second, what of those people who have never heard the Gospel and therefore had no chance to believe?  Will He condemn them to Hell?

 Missing for the Friends of Narnia is Susan, and somehow I knew this immediate when I counted eight helpers of Narnia, but only seven Friends of Narnia.  Somehow I knew the missing person was Susan.

 

“Sire,” said Tirian… “there should be another… Where is Queen Susan?”

“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”

“Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says ‘What wonderful memories you have!  Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.”

“Oh, Susan!”  said Jill.  “She’s interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations.  She always was a jolly sight to keen on being grown-up.”

“Grown-up indeed,” said the Lady Polly.  “I wish she would grow up.  She wasted all her shool time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age.  Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”

 

-The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 741

 

Susan turned away from Narnia and Aslan and, instead, made vanity and things of the world her focus.  BUT, Lewis did not say she could not become a Friend of Narnia again.  Further, someone had to survive to tell The Chronicles of Narnia.

 As the Seven plus Tirian go “further up, further in,” they meet a Calormene who tells them of his meeting Aslan:

 

“Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him.  Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him.  Both the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my fourehead with his tongue and said, ‘Son, thou art welcome.’  But I said, ‘Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.’  He answered, ‘Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service to me.’ Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, ‘Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?’  The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, “It is false.  Not because4 he and I are one, but because we are opposites – I take to me the service which thou hast done to him.  For I and he are such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.  Therefore, if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.  And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.  Dost thou understand, Child?’  I said, ‘Lord, thou knowest how much I understand.’   But I said also (for the truth constrained me), ‘Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.’  ‘Beloved,’ said the Glorious One, ‘unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly.  For all find what they truly seek.’

 

-The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 757

 

 Honestly, it was impossible to review this book without incorporating the religious aspects of it.  That is not to say it can’t be enjoyed without being religious.  It stands alone as the heart-wrenching finale of a much loved and favorite literary classic series.  I couldn’t help but cry at the end; for the beauty, for the Friends, for all who had been were together again… and for Susan, who, by her folly, missed the train (if you’ve read this, or when you do read this, book you’ll get that reference).

 The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis is beyond words, and I sigh with a bittersweet happiness, as I have come to the end of my journey through Narnia.  I leave you with the last paragraph of the last book of Narnia:

 

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page:  now at last they were beginning Chaper One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read:  which goes on for ever:  in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

 

-The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 767

 

5 out of 5 stars.

hated it!didn't like itit was okayliked itLoved it!

Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

Title: Nim’s Island
 Author: Wendy Orr
Illustrator: Kerry Millard
Paperback: 125 pages
Publisher: Yearling
Publish Date: 1999
ISBN: 9780375811234

In a palm tree, on an island, in the middle of the wide blue sea, was a girl.

Nim’s hair was wild, her eyes were bright, and around her neck she wore three cords. One was for a spyglass, one for a whorly, whistling shell, and one for a fat red pocketknife in a sheath.

With a spyglass at her eye, she watched her father’s boat. It sailed out through the reef to the deeper dark ocean, and Jack turned to wave and Nim waved back, though she knew he couldn’t see.

Then the white sails caught the wind and blew him out of sight, and Nim was alone…

-page 5, Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr is a fun little tale of a girl named Nim and how she copes with being alone to care for herself when a sudden storm catches her marine biologist father at sea, damaging his boat and preventing his return. Equipped with the modern technology while living in an island hut, Nim answers her father’s email from Alex Rover, the reclusive and mysterious, world-famous adventurer and author.

After receiving Rover’s questions regarding coconuts floatablity and usefulness in building a raft (the planned escape for Rover’s hero in the next book), Nim helps answer Rover’s inquiry… glad of the diversion while her father’s away… and in the process developing a friendship with Rover.

However, as the days go by without the return of her father and an infected injury to her knee, Nim begins to rely more and more on her new friendship with her hero and writer, as loneliness and fear begin to set in. Compounding her emotional turmoil is the close call with the Troppo Tourists boat; the people inadvertently responsible for the death of Nim’s mother.

During her experience alone on the island, Nim takes comfort in the knowledge that the rugged, manly hero/adventurer/writer Alex Rover is only a click away for advice. So when she realizes Alex is an Alexandra, she is angry and feels tricked. Likewise, when Alex realizes Nim’s all alone on the island, and Selkie and Fred aren’t her brother and sister, but rather her pets, she is horrified and decides to fly to be with Nim, even though she is terrified of flying and open water.

Throughout the story, there is the wonder and worry about the dad’s return, Nim’s well-being, the island’s continued secret existence, and loneliness of all three main characters: Jack’s loss of Nim’s mother, Nim’s longing for a hands-on dad, and Alex’s reclusiveness.

I enjoyed this book, and loved the movie version by the same name. I actually saw the movie first, then later found out it was a book as well. The two are rather different, however, which often makes it possible to like both. Whereas the book deals with the Troppo Tourists’ discovery of the island in passing and Nim’s defense of it in a short segment, the movie’s main crisis isthe invasion of the tourists and Nim’s mounting an aggressive push of the unwanted vacationers.

In truth, I liked the movie better than the book, because there’s a lot more detail to the characters’ lives. Alex Rover is more agoraphobic… pretty much phobic of everything, really, so the struggle to “be the hero of her own life” is more intense. The movie’s Nim has more depth and is more like a real girl than in the book, with the attitude of a desire for independence that most preteens have. Also, the movie’s dad seems more like a caring and concerned parent desiring the safety of his daughter than the book’s more-or-less-absentee father.

I’d recommend Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr, particularly for girls ages 8-12. Maggie is rather into it, and is looking forward to finishing it. I’d give Nim’s Island three out of five stars.

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