cover image Kyle’s Island

Kyle’s Island

Sally Derby. Charlesbridge, $16.95 (191pp) ISBN 978-1-58089-316-9

Picture-book writer Derby (No Mush Today ) sets her first novel in a quieter time, placing it on the gentler end of the middle-grade spectrum. Kyle, a solid, loving, and responsible (nearly) 13-year-old in the 1970s, lives for his summers by the lake in upstate Michigan, where his family converges on his grandmother’s tiny cottage and spends lazy days fishing, swimming, reading, and sketching. But now his grandmother has died, his father has moved out, and his mother has decided they cannot afford to keep the cottage. Furious with his father for leaving them, Kyle nevertheless strives to be a good big brother to seven-year-old Josh and to get along with his sisters. Kyle’s love of rowing and fishing pervades the novel; calm scenes on the water offset his emotional turmoil. When an obese older neighbor employs him to take him fishing every morning, Kyle realizes he may be able to earn the money to keep the cottage. Kyle and his siblings often seem unnaturally mature and empathetic, but overall Derby creates a realistic rendition of family life, with a smattering of adventure, in this tender coming-of-age story. Ages 10–13. (Feb.)