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Nim's Island

Nim's Island

4.5 28
by Wendy Orr, Kerry Millard (Illustrator)

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A girl. An iguana. An island. And e-mail. Meet Nim–a modern-day Robinson Crusoe! She can chop down bananas with a machete, climb tall palm trees, and start a fire with a piece of glass. So she’s not afraid when her scientist dad sails off to study plankton for three days, leaving her alone on their island. Besides, it’s not as if no one’s


A girl. An iguana. An island. And e-mail. Meet Nim–a modern-day Robinson Crusoe! She can chop down bananas with a machete, climb tall palm trees, and start a fire with a piece of glass. So she’s not afraid when her scientist dad sails off to study plankton for three days, leaving her alone on their island. Besides, it’s not as if no one’s looking after her–she’s got a sea lion to mother her and an iguana for comic relief. She also has an interesting new e-mail pal. But when her father’s cell-phone calls stop coming and disaster seems near, Nim has to be stronger and braver than she’s ever been before.

And she’ll need all her friends to help her.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"There is real humor and a gentle magic in Nim's Island which will easily make it a favorite for children—and their parents! One not to miss." — Cairns Post (Australia).

Publishers Weekly
In a starred review, PW called this novel about a girl living on a remote island "as welcome as a breath of fresh tropical air." Ages 8-12. (June)n Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Orr (Peeling the Onion) blithely throws credibility to the wind and inventively tweaks coincidence to create a fantasy tale as welcome as a breath of fresh tropical air. Ever since her mother died when Nim was a baby, the girl and Jack, her scientist father, have lived on a remote island. When Jack sails off on a three-day trip to collect plankton, Nim stays behind with her three best friends: a sea lion, a marine iguana and a green sea turtle. But a storm disables Jack's boat, and Nim remains alone for a full two weeks, in contact with her father only through notes delivered by a frigate bird. As the author describes the girl's daily routine of foraging for food, doing chores and playing with her pals, she neatly slips into her narrative slivers of information about the tropical habitat (e.g., Chica the sea turtle returns each year to lay her eggs on Nim's island, where Chica was hatched). A story within a story emerges as Nim strikes up an e-mail correspondence with an author who begins writing an adventure novel set on an island that looks exactly like Nim's. With ample doses of suspense and comedy, and a pleasingly sappy happily-ever-after ending, the tale portrays the improbable so cleverly that readers will want to believe everything about the likable Nim and her idyllic isle. Pen-and-ink drawings that resemble Quentin Blake's bring these enchanting characters and setting to life. Ages 9-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Nim lives with her scientist father on an island somewhere in the south Pacific. When her father sails away for three days to collect and study plankton, Nim decides to stay home. Her father promises to call nightly on the cell phone, and Nim checks the e-mail every day. Nim is not worried about being alone—she has her friends Fred, the marine iguana and Selkie, the sea lion. When her father fails to make contact on the second night, though, Nim grows worried. With the help of all her friends, including a new e-mail correspondent, famous adventure writer Alex Rover, Nim helps to rescue her father and save the island from being invaded by dreaded so-called "Troppo Tourists" who would destroy the beauty of the island forever. She also survives a volcanic eruption and a storm. Written by the award winning author of Peeling the Onion, an ALA Best Books for Young Adults, Nim's Island is a rollicking adventure. Kerry Millard's humorous illustrations weave their magic throughout the text. 2001 (orig. 1999), Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, $16.99 and $14.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Valerie O. Patterson AGES: 8 9 10 11 12
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-Nim lives on the most beautiful island in the world (its location is a closely guarded secret) with a marine iguana, a sea lion, and her scientist dad, Jack. When he goes off to explore the world of plankton, the child occupies herself with typical Swiss Family Robinson-like chores and keeping her dad's batteries charged so she can check his e-mail on the laptop computer. When his boat becomes disabled, Nim's link to humanity becomes Alex Rover, the author of the novel she's reading, who has e-mailed Jack with some scientific questions. They correspond frequently, Nim giving Alex advice on building a raft out of coconuts, and Alex uncannily picturing spots on the island in her current book. A violent storm and volcanic eruption toward the end result in Nim saving the day, and the three characters set up life together on their paradise. And all of this occurs amid a clever plan to divert evil tourists from ever finding the island. If readers can suspend belief long enough to accept this plot, they will have a great time with this modern survival/adventure story. Children will love this unshakable, strong female character and the zany things that happen to her. They'll also enjoy the way adults seem to bungle everything. There are plenty of sketches to add visuals to this wild tale, which never loses its momentum. Teachers can springboard many geographic or scientific studies off this novel as they read it aloud, but kids can just enjoy the fun.-Debbie Whitbeck, West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim's sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother's death appears off the island's reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for"Alexandra," sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won't soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.34(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


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 the 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. For three days and three nights, whatever happened or needed doing, Nim would do it.

"And what we need first," said Nim, "is breakfast!" So she threw four ripe coconuts thump! into the sand and climbed down after them.

Then she whistled her shell, two long, shrill notes that carried far out to the reef, where the sea lions were fishing. Selkie popped her head above the water. She had a fish in her mouth, but she swallowed it fast and dived toward the beach.

And from a rock by the hut, Fred came scuttling. Fred was an iguana, spiky as a dragon, with a cheerful snub nose. He twined round Nim's feet in a prickly hug.

"Are you saying good morning," Nim demanded, "or just begging for breakfast?"

Fred stared at the coconuts. He was a very honest iguana.

Coconuts are tricky to open, but Nim was an expert. With a rock and a spike, she punched a hole and drank the juice, cracked the shell and pried out the flesh. Fred snatched his piece and gulped it down.

Marine iguanas don't eat coconut, but no one had ever told Fred.

Now Selkie was flopping up the beach to greet them. "We'll come in, too!" Nim shouted, and dived off the rocks.

Selkie twisted and shot up underneath, gliding Nim through the waves: thumping over, ducking under. Nim clung tight, till she was half sea lion and half girl, and all of her was part ocean.

Then Selkie and Fred went to sunbake on the rock and Nim went back to the hut. She poured a mug of water from her favorite blue bottle, brushed her teeth above a clump of grass that needed the spit, and started her chores. There were lots today, because she was doing some of Jack's as well as her own.

Long ago, when Nim was a baby, she'd had a mother as well as Jack. But one day, her mother had gone to investigate the contents of a blue whale's stomach. It was an interesting experiment that no one had done for thousands of years, and Jack said that it would have been all right, it should have been safe—until the Troppo Tourists came to make a film of it, shouting and racing their huge pink-and-purple boat around Nim's mother and the whale. When Jack told them to stop, they made rude signs and bumped their boat against the whale's nose.

The whale panicked and dived, so deep that no one ever knew where or when he came back up again.

Nim's mother never came back up at all.

So Jack packed his baby into his boat and sailed round and round the world, just in case Nim's mother came back up out of the ocean somewhere else and didn't know where to find them. Then one day, when the baby had grown into a very little girl, he'd found this island.

It was the most beautiful island in the whole world. It had white shell beaches, pale gold sand, and tumbled black rocks where the spray threw rainbows into the sky. It had a fiery mountain with green rain forest on the high slopes and grasslands at the bottom. There was a pool of fresh water to drink and a waterfall to slide down, and, in a hidden hollow where the grasslands met the white shell beach, there was—"A place for a hut!"

And around it all, so that only the smallest boats could weave their way through, was a maze of reef, curving from the black rocks on one side to the white cliffs on the other.

Jack sailed back to a city for the very last time. He filled up the boat with plants for a garden and supplies for science, and he landed on the island to build a home for just him and his daughter, because he knew now that Nim's mother had stayed down at the bottom of the sea.

Like a mermaid, Nim thought.

He built a hut of driftwood logs and good strong branches, with a palm-thatched roof and a hard dirt floor. He put up a satellite dish, and a solar panel to charge the batteries for a flashlight, a cell phone, and a laptop computer.

He made sleeping mats stuffed with rustling palm fronds, a table and two stools, a desk, bookcases and shelves for his science stuff, coconut-shell bowls, and sea-shell plates. He dug a vegetable garden in the rich soil at Fire Mountain's base and planted avocados, bananas, lettuce, oranges, pineapples, strawberries, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes, and bamboo for making pipes and useful things.

Then he went on being a scientist, and when Nim got older, she helped him. They read what the barometer said, measured how much rain fell every day and how strong the winds were, how high the high tides reached and how low the low tides fell, and then they marked the measurements on a clean white chart with a dark blue marker.

They studied the plants that grew on the island and the animals that lived there. They put blue bands on the birds' legs and wrote down the numbers so Jack could remember the birds' birthdays and who their mothers and fathers were. (Nim remembered anyway.)

Sometimes Jack wrote articles about the weather and the plants and animals, and e-mailed them to science magazines and universities, and sometimes people e-mailed him questions to answer. He would tell them about tropical storms and iguanas and seaweed, but he would never tell them where the island was, in case the Troppo Tourists ever found it, because Jack hated the Troppo Tourists worse than sea snakes or scorpions. Only the supply ship—which came once a year to bring them books and paper, flour and yeast, nails and cloth, and the other things they couldn't make themselves—knew where they lived. It was too big to weave its way through the reef, so Jack and Nim always sailed out to meet it, and the ship's captain never saw just how beautiful the island was.

And every day, no matter how excited Jack got about finding a new kind of seashell or butterfly, they looked after their garden; they watered it if it was dry, weeded the weeds, and picked what was ripe. Jack built a three-sided shed for the tools, with a hook for the bananas and his big machete to cut them with. The machete was Nim's favorite tool.

When they'd looked after the garden and fished for dinner and checked the beaches for driftwood or bottles or anything else that might have floated in on the tide, Nim had school.

That was what they called it, but it wasn't inside and it wasn't at a desk. They sat on the beach in the dark to study the stars, and climbed cliffs to see birds in their nests. Nim learned the language of dolphins, about the tiny crabs that float out to sea on their coconut homes, and how to watch the clouds and listen to the wind.

Sometimes for a whole day they talked in sea lion grunts or frigate bird squawks or plankton wiggles.

Jack loved plankton. Nim's favorites were the ones that shone bright in the sea at night, but Jack loved them all because they were so little, and so important because little fish ate them, and bigger fish ate the little fish, and the biggest fish ate the bigger fish, and there wouldn't have been any fish at all if it weren't for plankton.

But Nim liked animals that you could see, and have fun with, so when Jack had said he was going sailing for three days to collect plankton, Nim had decided to stay home.

"I'll phone every night at sunset," said Jack. "And then you can check the e-mail. If you don't hear from me or see me for three days, send an SOS."

But Nim knew that Jack would be okay because he was the best sailor on the ocean, and Jack knew that Nim would be okay because Selkie was always with her (Selkie sometimes forgot that Nim was strong and smart, and looked after her as if she were a tiny pup).

Even when the king of the sea lions barked at her to come and fish or snuggle down at night with her sea lion family, Selkie stayed close to Nim.

Meet the Author

Wendy Orr wrote her very first draft of Nim’s Island at age nine. An action-packed sequel, Nim at Sea, brings Nim to an even bigger island, when the intrepid island girl stows away on a cruise ship bound for Manhattan. Wendy Orr is also the author of Peeling the Onion, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

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Nim's Island 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good book if you by the hole thing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I luv this book the movie is cool too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What fun! Alone temporarily on a tropical island, Nim (age 10?) shows responsibility and resourcefulness as well as perseverance and courage. Complete with plot twists, reluctant heroes and bad guys who get their just rewards. Makes a great family-read-together, too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is so adventurous.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book has a story behind it too! It tell us always to never give up and look towards the future!
cara Shotmeyer More than 1 year ago
My favorite book in the world
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just got this and i love it! - Chesney Nichols
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I remember reading this in like 5th grade but now iv notisted a lot more stuff its amazing its g.o.o.d good tehe ttyl lataz
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
OMG THIS BOOK IS SOO FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!! I am not sure whats better.The book or the movie...:)
monkeyking103 More than 1 year ago
This book was an amazing adventure that you'll never forget. A book like this can be absorbing good for learning about yourself if you're adventures like Nim and Jack. If you haven't read this book, read it now!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is a wonderfull book 4 all ages i luv nim and i know u wiill to nim is a girl hew grew up on a private island with just her and her dad, this book is one of my favorit books and i will read it over and over again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Its a good movie. I have not read the book though.
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Ella Hayes More than 1 year ago
I have seen this movie so I should like the book.
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