Heavy Medal Finalist – Orphan Island
There is maybe no more controversial title on our list, and I really look forward to the discussion of this title, here, and in person in Oakland. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on why I think the title deserves inclusion on our short list (why it was nominated) and what I think it does well.
The writing in this novel is exquisite. Word by word, sentence by sentence, it might take top honors for me, just based on that. It is crafted beautifully.
The ambiguity of the world, and what happens at the end of the story is, to me, an asset and not a flaw, mimicking the confusion and ambiguity of exiting childhood and entering adolescence. The author respects her child readers’ abilities to withstand the uncertainty and knows that many will, in fact, relate to it.
I found the world that Snyder built was strong, albeit sometimes frustrating due to the lack of clarity. As a reader we are used to reading on for answers to our questions, and this book doesn’t deliver those answers. The feelings, though, are clear. Jinny’s confusion, anger, sadness, loss, and fear are strongest. But the other children on the island, although side characters, have personality traits that start with strong feelings. Though the reader may not have answers as to why these children are as they are, they can imagine. Again, this seems to mark a deep respect for her child reader, allowing for interpretations of theme.
The concerns are also relevant, of course, and as was discussed by Roxanne earlier, the theme seems deeply disturbing to some, but most commenters seem to agree that the interpretation of theme, which is the relevant criteria, is done in an outstanding way. Do you feel that the world building was successful? Was the plot and character overshadowed by theme and if so, is that OK in this kind of story?
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Sharon McKellar
Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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