When Michael’s parents lose their jobs, they buy a boat and decide to sail around the world with their son and their beloved dog. It’s an ideal trip – until Michael is swept overboard. He’s washed up on an island, where he struggles to survive. Then he discovers that he’s not alone. His fellow-castaway, Kensuke, keeps his distance at first. But when Michael’s life is threatened, he slowly lets the boy into his world. The two teach and learn from each other until, inevitably, they must part ways.
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Whitbread winner Morpurgo (Waiting for Anya) tries his hand at high-seas action in this tale of a 12-year-old who washes up on a tiny island in the Pacific in 1988. When the brickworks that employs Mike’s parents closes, Mike’s father comes up with a novel idea: he invests the family’s life savings in a sailboat and hires someone to train the three of them to operate the boat. Before long Mike and his parents, and his faithful dog, Stella, are off on a voyage around the globe. But one night, while alone on deck, Mike falls overboard. After hours in the water and losing consciousness (he dreams someone with strong arms has hauled him to safety), Mike comes to on the shore of an apparently deserted island. Readers hoping for a survival story on the order of Hatchet or Island of the Blue Dolphins instead will find a highly romanticized tale in which a saddened but wise Japanese army doctor, shipwrecked near the end of WWII and unwilling to return home, not only rescues Mike but teaches him to fish, cook and paint (‘As I watched [Kensuke painting] I became so engrossed that the failing light of evening always came too soon for me’). The languid descriptions and the clusters of coincidences create the ambience of fantasy; this story reads like a pleasantly extended daydream. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Donna Freedman – Children’s Literature
During a round-the-world trip on his family’s boat, 12-year-old Michael and his dog are swept overboard and later wash up on a remote island. They are not alone: a Japanese doctor has been marooned there since the end of World War II. Despite initial mistrust, the English boy and the Asian man become friends and learn from each other. Michael is brave, but he desperately misses his mum and dad and doubts he will ever see civilization again. Kensuke has had enough of war to know that he never again wants to be among his fellows. Although the story at times strains credulity, it has plenty to satisfy both the heart and the mind. Call it a cerebral survival tale. 2003, Scholastic, Ages 10 up.
Rollie Welch – VOYA
Set in 1987, this brief novel opens with eleven-year-old Michael departing England on a round-the-world yacht cruise with his parents and faithful sheepdog, Stella. Their adventure of a lifetime proceeds on course until disaster strikes in the Indian Ocean, when Stella is washed overboard and Michael leaps into the sea to save the animal. Struggling and near death, he is kept afloat by a souvenir soccer ball. Dreaming of angelic arms lifting him, Michael regains consciousness on a beach. Stella also survives, and together they desperately search the island for food and water. When nourishing supplies mysteriously appear, Michael knows that he is not the only human inhabitant of the island. Their benefactor is Kensuke, a Japanese survivor of World War II who has existed on the island for forty years. Originally from Nagasaki, the former soldier believes that his wife and son perished in the nuclear attack. He provides Michael with shelter, and as they overcome their language barrier, they begin a father-son relationship. Hoping for rescue, they pass time gathering food, protecting orangutans, and playing soccer. When a ship locates the castaways, Kensuke, still believing his family is dead, refuses to leave and states that the island is his home. Teens will scoff at th