“The Islanders,” by Mary Alice Monroe and Angela May, is a story written with middle-grade readers in mind, but for this adult, it was a fun and compelling read. I would recommend it for all ages.
A book of firsts, this is the first collaboration between Monroe and her long-time publicist, May, and it is also the first in a series of stories “…that introduces young readers to environmentalism and conservation” (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division), perhaps planting the seed that will grow future naturalists.
Set on Dewees Island in South Carolina just north of Charleston, the story unfolds on this 1,200-acre nature preserve of private homes, where the residents are dedicated to providing a safe habitat for the shore birds, sea turtles, birds of prey and other wildlife native to the barrier island. Golf carts and bicycles replace cars as the mode of transport and the island can be reached only by ferry or private watercraft.
Jake is almost 12 years old, loves to sketch and play video games but his home life changed dramatically when his father was injured in Afghanistan. His mother has had to leave to take care of him and she takes Jake to Dewees to spend the summer with his grandmother, Honey.
When he arrives on the island, Jake is thinking this will be his worst summer ever, envisioning a long summer worrying about his dad, missing his mom and being bored (no internet, no video games, no friends). However, things start looking up quickly when he meets Macon and Lovie.
As the three new friends get to know each other, Jake learns how to drive a golf cart and, to his amazement, a boat. All kinds of adventures await. This summer is definitely not going to be boring!
Because of a little misadventure, the three friends must atone for their deed with mandatory community service. They must serve on the daily patrol – at dawn – of the island’s loggerhead turtle nests and look for turtle tracks. Jake becomes protective of the turtles and recognizes their place in the environment.
When his grandmother gives him the worn-leather journal his dad kept as a young boy on the island, Jake is drawn closer to his father and hopes and prays he will recover and still be the “same dad.”
Jake worries things may be different when he goes back home. Honey encourages him to write about his summer on the island and soon, his journal is filled with sketches, notes and memories.
This book will be absolutely loved by middle-school readers for the adventure, friendship and freedom that Jake, Lovie and Macon have on the island that summer … free to be kids, to explore and learn. Young readers will be inspired by the characters who, with strength and optimism, overcome some serious life challenges.
“The Islanders” is available at booksellers nationwide, including your local independent book store.
Glenda Harris is a freelance writer and editor, nature lover and aspiring novelist.