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Orphan Island

Last updated Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Author: Laurel Snyder
Date of Publication: 2017
ISBN: 0062443410
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: May 2018

Synopsis: In the tradition of modern-day classics like Lois Lowry's The Giver comes a deep, compelling, heartbreaking, and completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island. On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again. Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back — and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?

Note to readers:
•  This book is a utopian/mystery-type of book (explain to the kids what that is) and its main underlying theme is about growing up and the struggles that come with it.
•  There is a picture of orphan island to show the kids in the first few pages of the book
•  Suggested reading: Chapters 1, 3, and 14

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What are things you used to do when you were little but you no longer do?
•  Are you scared or excited to grow up in the future?
•  What do you want to be when you grow up?


•  Utopia: a community or world that is perfect, but not normal.
•  Orphan: a child without parents
•  * Some words in the book are made up names of plants and fruits that the children on the island made up and are up for interpretation about what they actually are (for example, "plomms" on page 33 could be peaches or plums)

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Do you think it would be fun to live on an island without any adults?
•  Can you guess how old Jinny is? How old Ess is?
•  What do you think will happen now that Jinny decided to stay?

Craft ideas:
•  Draw a map of your idea of a perfect island to live on
•  Make paper island palm trees with paper towel rolls and green construction paper
•  Check our craft ideas on Pinterest!

Special activities:
•  List things you would bring with you that you can't live without if you were deserted on an island.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!