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Island Boyz

Island Boyz

4.7 8
by Graham Salisbury

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In this rich collection, Salisbury’s love for Hawaii and its encircling sea shines through every story. Readers will share the rush a boy feels when he leaps off a cliff into a ravine or feasts his eyes on a beautiful woman. They’ll find stories that show what it takes to survive prep school, or a hurricane, or the night shift at Taco Bell, or first love.


In this rich collection, Salisbury’s love for Hawaii and its encircling sea shines through every story. Readers will share the rush a boy feels when he leaps off a cliff into a ravine or feasts his eyes on a beautiful woman. They’ll find stories that show what it takes to survive prep school, or a hurricane, or the night shift at Taco Bell, or first love. Graham Salisbury knows better than anyone what makes an island boy take chances. Or how it feels to test the waters, to test the limits, and what it’s like when a beloved older brother comes home from war, never to be the same.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Readers will soak up the 11 stories collected here. Set on the Hawaiian beaches of the author's youth, the fiction revisits the terrain of previous Salisbury novels," noted PW. Ages 10-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Salisbury, himself a native of Hawaii, brings readers a powerful compilation of ten short stories about the experiences of young men growing up on the islands. The poem that opens the collection paints a vivid picture of boys who are "a strange brew mixed by sun, salt, and seawater." There's something for everyone in these tales: in "The Ravine," the search for a dead boy becomes a test of courage; the ravages of Mother Nature and the consequences of ignoring her feature in "The Hurricane"; and there is first love between a boy and his "Angel-Baby," to name a few. The strongest piece here is "Hat of Clouds," the story of two brothers, Jake and Randy. Randy, the oldest, is a natural fisherman, who is drafted to fight in Vietnam when he graduates from high school. Jake stays behind, waiting for the day when he is old enough to fight. When Randy comes home, with one leg amputated, Jake must cope with a completely different brother. These tales are thought provoking and poignant, but there is also plenty of action and humor to keep even reluctant readers interested. Highly recommended for all YA collections. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2002, Random House, Dell Laurel Leaf, 260p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Olivia Durant
Children's Literature
Clandestine longings, temptations, centipedes that lurk in unexpected corners, a land rolling like honey. These are the elements of place in Salisbury's short story collection. Prefaced by lyrical free verse, the stories are set in Hawaii, and more significantly, they are set squarely in the consciousness of teenaged boys. In "Mrs. Noonan," justice and truth are in conflict and in the end, the bullied and belittled protagonist makes a decision that is both deeply flawed and oddly poignant. "Hat of Clouds," despite its low-key ending, contains brilliant prose and in places, tension as taut as a fishing line. A single sentence about the mother's reaction to the news of her son's injury in Vietnam evokes an entire palette of emotions. Salisbury's craft turns each of these stories into a snapshot, the Hawaiian sunlight illuminating both the inner pain and the life-force of his characters. The history and the multiple intertwined cultures of the islands form more than a lush backdrop. It is warp to the weft of story.
—Uma Krishnaswami
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-An outstanding collection of short stories set in Hawaii, five of which have appeared in other anthologies. Boyz is a mix of first-person narratives that are rich in local vernacular, drawing readers into a variety of island-life experiences. Two stories worth noting are "The Doi Store Monkey" and "Waiting for the War." The first is a psychologically arresting story that exposes the cruelty that darkens prep-school life. A physically handicapped boy and a caged monkey are the easy marks for a band of boys on a mean spree. Only when it's too late does the narrator take a measured look at the pain he's helped inflict. "Waiting for the War" is set two years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. On the surface it is about two boys and an ornery horse. It is rife with humor as the protagonists are pitted against a wise and exasperatingly evasive animal. When the boys meet a serviceman from Texas who has the know-how to manage the animal, they indirectly gain a respect for the thousands of military men who inhabit their island. On a deeper level, the story speaks of the multitude of ways in which war touches people. The beauty of Island Boyz is that it covers a wide spectrum of situations and emotions, from the effects of war on small-town life to the irrepressible adventure of deep-sea fishing. Its power is in the creative and credible narrative voices. Salisbury has artfully crafted difficult situations into recognizable facts of life in this terrific contribution to short-story collections.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hurricanes, volcanoes, capsized fishing boats in shark-infested waters, cliff-diving in a dangerous ravine, and a mysterious stranger at the Taco Bell are among the thrills in this excellent collection of stories. Running through them-through the storms of nature and human nature-is a reverence for the "most mind-boggling, most impossible universe you could ever imagine." The author's affection for the Hawaiian Islands where he grew up is evident throughout. Despite the menace or malice in each story, above the surface or below, the characters always reflect the last lines of the opening poem: " I would not have traded places with anyone not even God." "Mrs. Noonan" and "The Doi Store Monkey" are two fine contributions about the cruel underbelly of boarding-school life, whose protagonists find quiet means of resistance to evil. "Waiting for the War" superbly tells of how the bombing of Pearl Harbor affected peoples' lives and attitudes on the island, through the relationship between two boys and an "army guy" named Mike. The final selection, "Hat of Clouds," is about brothers, the Vietnam War, and the healing power of a place to come home to. Each story stands alone, but much of the power and appeal of the collection lies in how each individual piece contributes to a larger portrait of the place. A must for any good collection. (Fiction. 12+)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Random House
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Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Vinny turned away and swam back over to the other side of the pond, where he'd first gotten in. His mother would kill him if she ever heard about where he'd come. After the boy drowned, or was taken by the goddess, or whatever happened to him, she said never to come to this pond again. Ever. It was off-limits. Permanently.

But not his dad. He said, "You fall off a horse, you get back on, right? Or else you going be scared of it all your life."

His mother scoffed and waved him off. "Don't listen to him, Vinny, listen to me. Don't go there. That pond is haunted." Which had made his dad laugh.

But Vinny promised he'd stay away.

But then Starlene and Joe-Boy said, "Come with us anyway. You let your mommy run your life, or what?" And Vinny said, "But what if I get caught?" And Joe-Boy said, "So?"

Vinny mashed his lips. He was so weak. Couldn't even say no. But if he'd said, "I can't go, my mother won't like it," they would have laughed him right off the island. He had to go. No choice.

So far it was fine. He'd even gone in the water. Everyone was happy. All he had to do now was wait it out and go home and hope his mother never heard about it.

When lie looked up, Starlene was gone.

He glanced around the pond until he spotted her starting up the zigzag trail to the fifty-foot ledge. She was moving slowly, hanging on to roots and branches on the upside of the cliff. He couldn't believe she was going there. He wanted to yell, "Hey, Starlene, that's where he died!"

But she already knew that.

Mo jumped from the lower ledge, yelling "Banzaiiii!" An explosion of coffee-colored water erupted when he hit.

Joe-Boy swam over to where Starlene had gotten out. He waved to Vinny, grinning like a fool, then followed Starlene up the zigzag trail.

Now Starlene was twenty-five, thirty feet up. Vinny watched her for a while, then lost sight of her when she slipped behind a wall of jungle that blocked his view. A few minutes later she popped back out, now almost at the top where the trail ended, where there was nothing but mud and a few plants to grab on to if you slipped, plants that would rip right out of the ground, plants that wouldn't stop you if you fell, nothing but your screams between you and the rocks below.

Just watching her, Vinny felt his stomach tingle. He couldn't imagine what it must feel like to be up there, especially if you were afraid of heights, like he was. She has no fear, Vinny thought, no fear at all. Pleasepleaseplease, Starlene. I don't want to see you die.

Starlene crept forward, making her way to the end of the trail where the small ledge was.

Joe-Boy popped out of the jungle behind her. He stopped, waiting for her to jump before going on.

Vinny held his breath.

Starlene, in her cutoff jeans and soaked T-shirt, stood perfectly still, her arms at her side. Vinny suddenly felt like hugging her. Why, he couldn't tell. Starlene, please.
She reached behind her and took a wide leaf from a plant, then eased down and scooped up a finger of mud. She made a brown cross on her forehead, then wiped her muddy fingers on her jeans.

She waited.

Was she thinking about the dead boy?

She stuck the stem end of the leaf in her mouth, leaving the rest of it to hang out. When she jumped, the leaf would flap up and cover her nose and keep water from rushing into it. An old island trick.

She jumped.

Down, down.

Almost in slow motion, it seemed at first, then faster and faster. She fell feet first, arms flapping to keep balance so she wouldn't land on her back or stomach, which would probably almost kill her.

just before she hit, she crossed her arms over her chest and vanished within a small explosion of rusty water.

Vinny stood, not breathing at all, praying.

Ten seconds. Twenty, thirty ...

She came back up, laughing.

She shouldn't make fun that way, Vinny thought. it was asking for it.

Vinny looked up when he heard Joe-Boy shout, "Hey, Vinny, watch how a man does it! Look!"

Joe-Boy scooped up some mud and made a bolt of lightning across his chest. When he jumped, he threw himself out, face and body parallel to the pond, his arms and legs spread out. He's crazy, Vinny thought, absolutely insane. At the last second, Joe-Boy folded into a ball and hit. Ca-roomp! He came up whooping and yelling, Wboo! So good! Come on, Vinny, it's hot"'

Vinny faked a laugh. He waved, shouting, "Nah, the water's too coldr,

Now Mo was heading up the zigzag trail, Mo who hardly ever said a word and would do anything anyone ever challenged him to do. Come on, Mo, not you, too. Vinny knew then that he would have to jump.

jump, or never live it down..

Mo jumped in the same way Joe-Boy had, manstyle, splayed out in a suicide fall. He came up grinning.

Starlene and Joe-Boy turned toward Vinny.

Vinny got up and hiked around the edge of the pond, walking in the muddy shallows, looking at a school of small brown-back fish near a ginger patch.

Maybe they'd forget about him.'

Starlene torpedoed over, swimming under water. Her body gliqered in the small amount of sunlight that penetrated the trees around the rim of the ravine. When she came up, she broke the surface smoothly, gracefully, like a swan. Her blond hair sleeked back like river grass.

She smiled a sweet smile. "Joe-Boy says you're afraid to jump. I didn't believe him. He's wrong, right?"

Vinny said quickly, "Of course he's wrong. I just don't want to, that's all. The water's cold."

"Nah, it's nice."

Vinny looked away. On the other side of the pond Joe-Boy and Mo were on the cliff behind the waterfall.

"Joe-Boy says your mom told you not to come here. Is that true?"

Vinny nodded. "Yeah. Stupid, but she thinks it's haunted."

"She's right."


"That boy didn't die, Vinny. The stone goddess took him. He's in a good place right now. He's her prince."

Vinny scowled. He couldn't tell if Starlene was teasing him or if she really believed that. He said, "Yeah, prob'ly."

"Are you going to jump, or is Joe-Boy right?"

“ Joe-Boy's an idiot. Sure I'm going to jump."

Starlene grinned, staring at Vinny a little too long. "He is an idiot, isn't he? But I love him."

"Yeah, well. . . "

"Go to it, big boy. I'll be watching."

Starlene sank down and swam out into the pond.


Vinny ripped a hank of white ginger from the ginger patch and smelled it and prayed he'd still be alive after the sun went down.

He took his time climbing the zigzag trail.

When he got to the part where the jungle hid him from view, he stopped and smelled the ginger again. So sweet and alive it made Vinny wish for all he was worth that he were climbing out of the ravine right now, heading home.

But of course, there was no way he could do that.

Not before jumping.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Graham Salisbury writes from the heart and draws on his own experiences of growing up in Hawaii. His drive to write about the emotional journey that kids must take to become adults in a challenging and complicated world is evident through his work. Says the author: "I've thought a lot about what my job is, or should be, as an author of books for young readers. I don't write to teach, preach, lecture, or criticize, but to explore. . . . And if my stories show [characters] choosing certain life options, and the possible consequences of having chosen those options, then maybe I will have finally done something worthwhile. Wonder of wonders."


Salisbury has already done something worthwhile. His first novel, Blue Skin of the Sea, won the PEN/Norma Klein Award, the Bank Street Child Study Award, and the Parents' Choice Book Award, and was selected as an NCTE Notable Trade book in the Language Arts, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.


His second novel, Under the Blood-Red Sun has won the prestigious Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, the 1998 Hawaii Nene Award, as well as numerous other honors. This powerful and poignant book is the moving story of a Japanese American boy caught in the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.


Shark Bait is a fast-paced, exciting action story that explores the lure of violence and its consequences for a boy and his friends when a Saturday night tumult stuns a Hawaiian village. To read a letter to educators and hear an excerpt from the book, along with pronunciations of the unusual words and character names from thenovel, click here.


The most recent novel from Salisbury, Lord of the Deep, enticingly combines the high action of fishing with a narrative that delves into the intricate relationship between a 13-year-old boy and his new stepfather.


Born in Hawaii, Graham Salisbury is a descendant of the Thurston and Andrews families, who were among the first missionaries to arrive in the Hawaiian Islands. He grew up on the islands of Oahu and Hawaii. Later, he graduated from California State University and received an MFA degree from Vermont College of Norwich University. Salisbury has worked as the skipper of a glass-bottomed boat, as a deckhand on a deep-sea fishing boat, as a musician, and also as an elementary school teacher. Today, he lives with his family in Portland, Oregon, where he manages a historic office building.

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Island Boyz 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Steals that
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cries plz he is like a brother to me
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fluck Vtex lef nook world forever i wonder
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks out...well he is mad at me i guess
p15w More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was great because it had a lot of different perspectives on other people through out the island. They shared many thrilling and different stories about themselves and it all ended up that everybody had a similar problem in there life. I suggest this book to readers who like adventurous stories.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Island Boyz is a collection of short stories that is sure to delight readers young and old alike. More then just stories told with a Hawaii flare, these stories could take place in any young person's life, and I believe some of them have. Some make you chuckle, such as the story 'Mrs. Noonan', some make you wonder(Forty Bucks) and yes there is at least one that left this reader a tad sad (The Doi Store Monkey). Isn't that what a good read is all about? A good mix for the mind and soul. A recommended read, one I feel you will truly enjoy! Shirley Johnson/Reviewer