Friday, 6 January 2012

Nim's Island by Wendy Orr

Nim lives on a tropical island with her father, Jack. It's just the two of them since her mother died. He works as a marine biologist and goes off in his boat for three days to study plankton, leaving Nim all alone. She doesn't mind, she has her chores to do and her book, Mountain Madness, to read. She also has her animal friends to play with; Selkie the sea-lion, Fred the iguana and Chica the turtle. She can stay in contact with her father by cell phone. However, after a very windy night, she can't get any response from Jack's phone. Increasingly nervous, Nim keeps herself busy. Checking Jack's e-mails she replies to a request from novelist Alex Rover. A correspondence builds up between them, which helps to take Nim's mind off her father.

This is a lovely adventure story for children. I'm sure that most kids would relish the idea of having a whole island as their playground. As readers we are aware that Jack is OK, so it's not too scary for the little ones. The island is perfect, with a rainforest, a volcano (the scene of Nim's scariest adventure) and a beautiful beach. There is a modern mix of Crusoe-esque self-sufficiency, for example Nim bakes bread on the hot rocks near the volcano and new technology in the form of satellite dishes and computers.

The outside world does occasionally intrude. The Troppo Tourists come on their cruise ship, with no concern for the natural environment. Nim and Jack are presented as custodians of the natural world and the Troppo Tourists are the barbarians who want to destroy it.

This is a good read. As an adult I had to set aside my disbelief that any parent would leave their child alone on a deserted island, let alone a deserted island with an active volcano! But I'm sure it isn't a detail which would bother any child reader.

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