Genre: fantasy fiction, adventure fiction
Key Stage: 3
The Island – Nicky Singer, illustrated by Chris Riddell (2015)
The Island was the book I didn’t know I needed in 2020, and not just because of the exquisite drawings by Chris Riddell, illustrator Laureate and Guardian cartoonist.
The story follows Cameron, a London teenager, reluctantly accompanying his scientist mother on an research trip to an uninhabited Artic Island. Confronted with 24 hours of daylight and no WiFi, Cameron is resigned to a trip defined by boredom and awkward avoiding of conversation with his Mum. His only consolation is his video recorder given to him by his Dad, who is no longer in the picture – not really.
However, Cameron soon discovers that the picture is a lot bigger than he knew, and that some things cannot be recorded – on a video camera, or in scientific records. The Island, for one, is not the uninhabited land mass that his mother writes about in her logbook. For Cameron and his mother are not alone on the island – also on the Island is a polar bear looking to avenge the colonisation and destruction of the island, and an Inuit girl, determined to save her culture and language – and to make friends with another teenager.
As Callum and his new friend Inuluk explore the Island together, Callum sees things in a new light that goes far beyond the eternal Arctic sunshine. Together, they rediscover the lost words of Inuluk’s community – words of strength, words of fear, words of comfort; words that are perhaps more relevant than ever now. Together, they unpick how these words, almost completely erased by colonisation, weave together a message of recovery and hope for an Island itself facing erasure, due to rising sea levels and human destruction. As Callum and Inuluk work together to ensure that these words are not forgotten, they embark on a journey of discovery that neither will ever forget.
This book provides an escape from the present without ever taking its eyes off the future – or flinching from the past. A book to comfort and remind – and a treasure of illustration. Couldn’t recommend enough.
Check out some illustrations and the soundscape for the theatre adaptation here: https://nickysinger.com/new/island/
Reviewer: Ms Fox