The Little Island

( 6 )


Once there was a little island in the ocean. That little island changes as the seasons come and go. The storm and the day and night change it. So do the lobsters and seals and gulls that stop by. Then one day a kitten visits the little island and learns a secret that every child will enjoy.

Depicts the changes that occur on a small island as the seasons come and go, as day changes to night, and as a storm approaches.

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Once there was a little island in the ocean. That little island changes as the seasons come and go. The storm and the day and night change it. So do the lobsters and seals and gulls that stop by. Then one day a kitten visits the little island and learns a secret that every child will enjoy.

Depicts the changes that occur on a small island as the seasons come and go, as day changes to night, and as a storm approaches.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Several old favorites are being reissued this month. The Caldecott Medal-winning The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown, illus. by Leonard Weisgard, tells about the seasons and animals that touch a small island ("There was a little Island in the ocean./ Around it the winds blew/ And the birds flew/ And the tides rose and fell on the shore"), and a kitten who comes ashore learns a secret about the island and a lesson about faith. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
When first published in 1947, this timeless book won the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children. It was originally published under the pseudonym Golden MacDonald and was one of over 100 books written by the author. With its spare wording and watercolor scenes, the book depicts the vibrancy of life on an island far out at sea. The words lap across the pages in a lyrical rhythm—if not with any rhyme—as the island takes its place in nature. The island is subject to the changes of the seasons, shifting weather patterns, and the passage of time. We hear of "spiders sailing their webs" and meet a visiting kitten who describes himself as "a little island in the air"; we see "waves as big as glassy mountains," and we feel the tug and the sway of changing patterns. The book, like the tale of the island it rejoices, is mesmerizing in its celebration of life and the world. 2003, Doubleday, Ages 5 to 8.
— Susan Schott Karr
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440408307
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/1993
  • Series: Picture Yearling Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 125,212
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 590L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 7.46 (h) x 0.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Wise Brown, who also wrote under the pseudonym of Golden MacDonald, published more than 100 books for children.

Leonard Weisgard illustrated more than 100 children’s books.


When Margaret Wise Brown began to write for young children, most picture books were written by illustrators, whose training and talents lay mainly in the visual arts. Brown, the author of Goodnight Moon, was the first picture-book author to achieve recognition as a writer, and the first, according to historian Barbara Bader, "to make the writing of picture books an art."

After graduating college in 1932, Brown's first ambition was to write literature for adults; but when she entered a program for student teachers in New York, she was thrilled by the experience of working with young children, and inspired by the program's progressive leader, the education reformer Lucy Sprague Mitchell. Mitchell held that stories for very young children should be grounded in "the here and now" rather than nonsense or fantasy. For children aged two to five, she thought, real experience was magical enough without embellishments.

Few children's authors had attempted to write specifically for so young an audience, but Brown quickly proved herself gifted at the task. She was appointed editor of a new publishing firm devoted to children's books, where she cultivated promising new writers and illustrators, helped develop innovations like the board book, and became, as her biographer Leonard S. Marcus notes, "one of the central figures of a period now considered the golden age of the American picture book."

Though Brown was intensely interested in modernist writers like Gertrude Stein (whom she persuaded to write a children's book, The World Is Round), it was a medieval ballad that provided the inspiration for The Runaway Bunny (1942), illustrated by Clement Hurd. The Runaway Bunny was Brown's first departure from the here-and-now style of writing, and became one of her most popular books.

Goodnight Moon, another collaboration with Hurd, appeared in 1947. The story of a little rabbit's bedtime ritual, its rhythmic litany of familiar objects placed it somewhere between the nursery rhyme and the here-and-now story. At first it was only moderately successful, but its popularity gradually climbed, and by 2000, it was among the top 40 best-selling children's books of all time.

The postwar baby boom helped propel sales of Brown's many picture books, including Two Little Trains (1949) and The Important Book (1949). After the author died in 1952, at the age of 42, many of her unpublished manuscripts were illustrated and made into books, but Brown remains best known for Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny.

More people recognize those titles than recognize the name of their author, but Margaret Wise Brown wouldn't have minded. "It didn't seem important that anyone wrote them," she once said of the books she read as a child. "And it still doesn't seem important. I wish I didn't have ever to sign my long name on the cover of a book and I wish I could write a story that would seem absolutely true to the child who hears it and to myself." For millions of children who have settled down to hear her stories, she did just that.

Good To Know

When Goodnight Moon first appeared, the New York Public Library declined to buy it (an internal reviewer dismissed it as too sentimental). The book sold fairly well until 1953, when sales began to climb, perhaps because of word-of-mouth recommendations by parents. More than 4 million copies have now been sold. The New York Public Library finally placed its first order for the book in 1973.

If you look closely at the bookshelves illustrated in Goodnight Moon, you'll see that one of the little rabbit's books is The Runaway Bunny. One of three framed pictures on the walls shows a scene from the same book.

Brown's death was a stunning and sad surprise. The author had had an emergency appendectomy in France while on a book tour, which was successful; but when she did a can-can kick days later to demonstrate her good health to her doctor, it caused a fatal embolism.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Golden MacDonald, Juniper Sage, Timothy Hay
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 23, 1910
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, N.Y.
    1. Date of Death:
      November 13, 1952
    2. Place of Death:
      Nice, France

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2007

    Fantastic: All the world is conected

    I love to read this book to kids. I love the cat and his attitude about the world and himself. I love to relate that to how we are all conected. I tell the kids you may be separated by an ocean from 'insert Country name' but we are conected because of how the sea floor conects us all. I also love to highlight the seasons. All the kids love the white seal. They are fasinated by that picture regardless of age. I read this book to kids from 5 to 11.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2007

    The Little Island

    This is a story of an island that sees the seasons come and go and with different kinds of animals with each new coming season. Then a kitten visits the island and talks to the little island about what each one is in the big world. In order to find out the answer the kitten talks to a fish about the island. After believing the fish the cat leaves the island and the seasons start over once again. The reading level for this book is between the ages of four to eight years old. MacDonald, Golden. The Little Island. New York: Dell Dragonfly Books, 2001.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2005


    The illustrations depicting seasonal changes and the poetic wording are so beautiful in this book. Good Night Moon was one I read to my infants and toddlers. My 5 year old loved this book. My favorite line has to do with the fish telling the kitten to have faith. My children are learning about this in religion class and the book helps reinforce this.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2001

    A Children's Version of 'No Man Is An Island' by John Donne

    You may not recognize the author's name. But do you know that Golden MacDonald was a pen name for Margaret Wise Brown of Goodnight Moon fame? The text of this book captures the subtle rhythms of her appreciation for nature, and the connections that all beings and objects in nature have with one another. The book also won a Caldecott Medal for its shimmering and tingling watercolors. The images create a mood of the perpetual essence of nature, and our connections to one another through the blue-green and grey palettes used. Children's books often contain more themes and important messages than 400 page novels. The Little Island is one of the great masterpieces in achieving that remarkable accomplishment. The book covers the four seasons as they affect the little island and the plants and animals that visit the island. To show the on-going nature of the process, the book's time line expands beyond a single year. The island is described as being: 'A part of the world and a world of its own all surrounded by the bright blue sea.' On the island, you will connect with birds, tides, clouds, fish, fogs, spiders, flowers, lobsters, seals, kingfishers, gulls, wild strawberries, butterflies, herring, mackerel, seaweed, pears, a black crow, a little kitten on a boat, trees, bushes, rocks, moths, an owl, a storm, snow, the sun, wind, and rain. The connection to Donne is made in the context of the kitten visitor to the island. 'May be I am an island too . . . a little fur Island in the air.' The connections run in all directions. The kitten learns from the island that the island is connected to all of the other land. When the kitten doubts the island about this point, the island suggests asking a fish. The kitten gets the answer there, but cannot get firm proof. He just has to take the fish's word for it. This is an obvious allusion to the element of faith in our understanding of the spiritual nature of our connections to one another. Having the kitten fish is also an allusion to the famous Biblical reference of teaching a man to fish, rather than providing him with fish. The book uses other connections to make the point. Many animals need the little island to go through their annual cycle, such as the seals who raise their young on the island. Many of the insects and birds come from the mainland across the sea. The weather affects the sea, the island, and the mainland alike . . . as do the tides. Some of the illustrations are so beautiful that you will want to carry them with you always. My favorite was of the kingfishers. The story will be strengthened by what you choose to share with you child as you read the book out loud. There are opportunities here to share scientific facts, spiritual connections, and to explain the mutual dependency that occurs in nature. I suspect that many people's lives have been enriched by the warm connections this book makes. Shouldn't your children and grandchildren have the same opportunity? See the forest and the trees! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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