Sola lives as an outcast within her small community on an island. She is cursed – that’s what everyone says – because a Monster came to the Island when Sola was a child; everyone around her ran, but Sola alone stood before it, and it reached out to her. The destruction left in the monster’s wake, coupled with its interest in Sola sealed it: the rest of the Island branded her. As Sola reaches adolescence, she’s curious: what drew the Monster to her? Tired of living with everyone’s fear, and wanting answers, Sola leaves the island, taking to the open water. As she travels, she discovers that the Island isn’t alone: there are new lands and people to meet.
Island Book is Sola’s story. A quietly strong female protagonist, she faces adversity at home and has a curious streak that contributes to her own community’s distrust and fear of her. The plot meanders on a bit in spots, but is mostly a solid story about courage and curiosity; about friendship and working together, and about opening oneself up to new ideas and experiences. The characters are humanoid but not human; the artwork is bright and the nature is beautifully depicted.
The first in a new series, Island Book is a good choice for middle grade book discussion groups, too. Ask kids if they’ve ever felt like Sola, unable to change someone’s mind or looked down on because of their age. Does Sola do the right thing by going off on her own? Would Sola’s community encourage relationships with other beings?