cover image The Islander

The Islander

Cynthia Rylant, Richard Jackson. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $14.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2490-7

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. Ages 11-up. (Mar.)