I was trying and trying to think of a great summer read that was set in the summer for this particular entry. I’d already done The Worry Week (which was reviewed a couple weeks ago), and I couldn’t find my copy of Gone Away Lake to re-read. (That one may be coming though!) So, I settled on Baby Island, by Carol Ryrie Brink.
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Mary Wallace and her younger sister Jean are on their way to Australia to meet their father on an ocean liner. Alone in their cabin, no one remembers them when a tropical storm hits and the ship goes down. Mary though, is a determined young lady, and she remembers that there are even younger children than them traveling, so she gets Jean out of bed and they head off to help rescue the Snodgrass babies. Only the Snodgrass adults are missing, so Mary hands Jean baby Jonah and she grabs twins Elisha and Elijah and all five children head for the lifeboats. Once they’re safe on board, a fourth baby, Ann Elizabeth, is handed to Mary by her father, while he goes back for her poodle.
When the fog lifts the next morning, the children are adrift. Luckily, they manage to find the boat’s supplies–hardtack and water. Although temporarily relieved, the babies soon start crying; for milk, for food, for their mothers. Jean wants to throw them overboard, but Mary makes her sing to them instead.
Luckily for everyone, the lifeboat comes aground on a deserted tropical island. Mary and Jean and the babies now have bananas and coconuts to eat, palm trees and bamboo to build with, and sand and water to play with…and a new pet monkey too! But soon, there are strange footprints in the sand, and a deep voice coming out of the forest. Who is on the island with them? Can two girls keep four babies (and a monkey) safe? Will anyone rescue them, or are the marooned forever?
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As a kid reading Baby Island, I loved the thought of what was probably the ultimate babysitting job! Who wouldn’t want to be free on a deserted island, filled with fruit and potential danger, with everyone looking up to you as the ultimate authority? As an adult, I’m thinking…um, not me!
Originally published in 1937, there really isn’t much to make this book dated. There’s no technology, but then again, the girls are marooned on a deserted island, so they wouldn’t have any available anyway. There is a bit of difficult dialogue in this book (a character speaks with a semi- Cockney accent, written out through some odd spelling; something that was popular in early 29th century novels, but and it’s not always easy to interpret the spelling into words). This might make it a little less accessible to today’s young readers.
Still, as a read-aloud, it’s hard to beat this thrilling adventure. It’s fun for the whole family. Try Baby Island with your favorite tween baby or adventure fan, and see what you think!