cover image The Islanders (The Islanders #1)

The Islanders (The Islanders #1)

Mary Alice Monroe with Angela May. Aladdin, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5344-2727-3

In collaboration with journalist May, adult author Monroe makes her middle grade debut with this comforting beach read about the healing power of friendship and nature. When Jake’s military officer father is wounded in Afghanistan, necessitating a visit from Jake’s Air Force lieutenant colonel mother, the 11-year-old must visit his enterprising grandmother Honey on Dewees Island, S.C., the lush nature preserve where she lives. He dreads a summer without technology and his New Jersey friends, but meeting a fellow summer kid, fact lover Macon, and local island expert Lovie, a skilled boater, helps Jake engage with the island’s “Huck Finn life.” Discovering his father’s naturalist journals, Jake nurtures an ecological interest of his own that escalates when the three friends must serve community service on dawn turtle patrol after appropriating a boat they thought abandoned. The narrative handles weighty issues considerately, including Lovie’s feelings about her biological father and how the boat incident affects Macon, who is Black, more than his cued-white friends. If the fact that each friend harbors a secret feels a bit tidy, the small-town community instills a strong sense of place, and the trio’s chemistry holds promise for future installments. Includes resources about the island and its wildlife. Ages 8–12. [em](June) [/em]