I happened to come across an ARC of Laurel Snyder's Orphan Island, due out in May of 2017. Thank you to Patrick Andrus to allowing me to read this one. I have been anticipating it's release.
Fantasy is one of my favorite genres. I cannot imagine what kind of challenge in must be to build worlds in the ways that excellent fantasy writers do. This book pulled me right in with some intense imagery. The setting is easy to imagine, it feels like paradise. A paradise where only nine children live in complete and happy bliss. Immediately I am pulled to images of Lord of the Flies or Blue Lagoon. The transportation to a new world is one that I have experienced for many years now.
How many times as a child did I imagine living far away, left to my own devices? More times that I can possibly remember. I was quite moved by The Boxcar Children series as a child. A couple of my childhood neighbors worked with me to create their world in our backyards. We made wild onion soup, set up different rooms in our house made of boxwood bushes. It was all quite magical, yet safe. The hollers of our mothers were always within earshot.
Another series that made a profound impact on playtime was The Babysitter's Club. I mean, what 80's/90's kid didn't have the same experience? You read Kristy's Great Idea and all of a sudden you have three of your closest friends gathered and a notebook with a cutout of JTT's face plastered on the front, Babysitter's Club scribbled in your best fourth grade cursive.
And while all of these memories of early world building sit fondly in my heart, there is one more that burns the brightest. As an early reader I was drawn to Mercer Mayer. Drawn might not be the word. Obsessed?
This book: There's An Alligator Under My Bed is one that will always remain a childhood favorite. I had a kindergarten teacher who made this fantasy world real and that inspired a lifetime of play when it comes to reading. I do not remember it all, but I remember her setting up plastic vegetables, fruits and cookies in a trail like the one the boy makes in the book. We had read the book together and then she transformed our classroom into the pages, and wow. What magic there was in that.
And so, I continued to build worlds. Whether it was the boxcar or my friend's bedroom because she was the only one who had a bubblegum pink Girl Talk phone.
As an adult, I no longer build these worlds, but I thoroughly enjoy visiting them through the work of others. If you like to be transported to different places with bizarre rules and possibilities then Orphan Island might be a nice choice for you. While the world is only one piece of the book, it is important. It allows the narrative of friendship and growing up to unfold in the most interesting way.