The Islander

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Overview

The year he is ten, Daniel Jennings meets a mermaid. With a single word, she opens the world for him, though he must puzzle out her meaning over another ten years on the wind-scoured coast of Coquille, the Pacific Northwest island upon which Daniel lives with his grandfather. This haunting, beautiful tale is a story of marvelous happenings in a young man's life.

Living with his grandfather on an island off British Columbia, orphaned ten-year-old Daniel feels deep ...

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Overview

The year he is ten, Daniel Jennings meets a mermaid. With a single word, she opens the world for him, though he must puzzle out her meaning over another ten years on the wind-scoured coast of Coquille, the Pacific Northwest island upon which Daniel lives with his grandfather. This haunting, beautiful tale is a story of marvelous happenings in a young man's life.

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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
PW's starred review said, "Rylant breaks new ground with this allegorical tale set on an island off the coast of British Columbia." Ages 10-up. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rylant ("Missing May") breaks new ground with this allegorical tale set on an island off the coast of British Columbia. Through the perspective of an adult narrator revisiting his pivotal 10th year, Rylant has invoked the voice of a true loner attempting to connect with someone or something outside himself. Orphaned and living with his grandfather, Daniel feels utterly alone until he sights a mermaid, who later gives him the gift of a magic key. But when he attempts to share this climactic meeting with his grandfather, he finds himself even more isolated ("I knew that my grandfather believed I was not well, that my mind was not well, and that the loss of my parents and the loneliness of living with him had made me so"). The magic key acts as a divining rod, leading the boy to animals and a lost girl in need of help, and slowly bridges a link with others. While modern inventions (airplanes and refrigerators) indicate a contemporary setting, the protagonist seems to belong to another era, if not another world. By painstakingly building a moat around the narrator from the start, Rylant allows readers to cross the drawbridge with Daniel as he strives to understand the mysteries of the sea and his own heritage, and begins to recognize the love and family that was always with him.
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Rylant, whose Missing May was honored with the Newbery, continues her exploration of the theme of loss in this story of an orphaned young boy trying to find his place in the isolated island world of his grandfather. With no one to talk to, the boy haunts the rocky edges of his small world. A mermaid sighting leads him to save and care for injured birds, and slowly he himself is healed of his grief. Rylant's novella is spare, poetic, and moving.
VOYA - Kitty Krahnke
Simply told in Rylant's beautiful style, this tale quickly lets you know the heart and soul of a boy and his grandfather on one particular isolated island off the coast of British Columbia. Rylant weaves a powerful and soul-gripping tale that enables the reader to believe in magic-the power of the unknown. It is the quiet tale of Daniel, an orphaned boy, who lives with his hermit-like grandfather on a very rugged island. The boy entertains himself by spending many hours wandering the island and wondering about the larger world he cannot see. His loneliness allows him to see a mermaid and accept the gifts she sends, one of which allows him to locate and heal birds and animals hiding on the island. This gift, and later the gift of a dog which is washed up on the shore, enables Daniel to find his place on the island and within his lost family-and finally peace in his life. This is a quiet and magical story that will cause readers to pause in their hectic lives and listen to their hearts as Daniel did to understand the core of who they really are. Although it looks like a book for younger readers, it takes a reader with a bit of life experience to understand Daniel's loneliness and accept the magic of this story. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
The ALAN Review - Tom Wilson
Unlike the other islanders of Coquille off the coast of British Columbia, Daniel Jennings is deeply interested in a life outside the island and wants to know what is happening in the world outside his own. But it is the island that grants Daniel the experiences that open the whole wide world to his discovery. Raised by his grandfather, Daniel traverses a life full of loneliness and abandonment. Along the way Daniel encounters a mermaid, saves lives, and finds a key that opens much more than just a lock. Cynthia Rylant's short novel The Islander conveys the first-person account of Daniel Jennings' haunting journey to self-discovery. Despite spending few words and offering a simple plot, The Islander presents itself as a mysteriously enchanting and moving work that will be deeply affecting for readers of all ages.
School Library Journal
A young man recalls his childhood on a remote island off the coast of British Columbia. The novel begins when 10-year-old Daniel, who lives with his reticent grandfather, is overcome with loneliness and turns to the sea in search of a friend. In response to his message in a bottle, a mermaid briefly appears. Another note asking her to return results in a key delivered by an otter with a diamond-shaped mark on his forehead. Later, Daniel finds that the key has magical powers. He discovers that he has a talent for helping birds, and he and his grandfather grow closer as they care for them together. Many years later, his grandfather dies, and Daniel discovers a photo of a young girl and her dog, which has a white diamond-shaped mark on his forehead. He learns that the girl was his grandfather's sister who perished while diving into the ocean during a storm to save the dog. Entirely alone and grief stricken, Daniel suddenly feels the long-silent key vibrate once again. It leads him to a box containing a puppy, who becomes the first member of his new family. Drawing on her talent for simple yet beautiful language to tell a story, Rylant tries her hand at fantasy with mixed results. Her heavy reliance on symbolism finally snaps the thin threads of credulity so necessary in successful fantasy, and young readers may miss their meaning. In addition, the emphasis on Daniel's spiritual journey rather than his character and the unemotional account of events combine to reduce readers' involvement. Maggie McEwen, Coffin Elementary School,
Kirkus Reviews
A young man learns to accept love and loss in this resonant novel from Rylant. Daniel was only a boy when his parents were killed in a plane crash and so his grandfather, who lived with him on the remote island of Coquille, off British Columbia, became his guardian. Rylant suggests that it was perhaps because Daniel was so numbed by grief that he was more open to the extraordinary occurrence of his chance meeting with a mermaid. Through the mermaid's gift of a key, which vibrates whenever Daniel is near a wounded animal, he learns that he is a natural healer; later, as the key leads to the recovery of Franny, a young girl who is lost, Daniel discovers, of course, that the key unlocks his own heart. The shy boy who once avoided his neighbors becomes a vital member of the island's small community, a son to his loving grandfather, and the perfect future husband for Franny. When his grandfather dies, Daniel finds that his spirit is again forged by grief, but he emerges stalwart, compassionate, and open to what life offers: "I do know that I once believed heaven was only clouds and sky," Daniel says. "But now I wonder if it might be as well the dark and mysterious sea." In these precious hundred pages, Rylant reassures her readers that while there is joy and agony in life, there is magic, as well.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789424907
  • Publisher: DK Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/1998
  • Pages: 112
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 890L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 7.72 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

DK Publishing
DK Publishing is world renowned for its distinctive, highly visual books that inform, inspire, and entertain readers of all ages.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 1999

    Good Books Are Here Again!!

    Well,this is one oof the besst books I have ever readd and I highly Recomendd it!!!

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