Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

I read Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s enchanting The Girl of Ink and Stars when it was shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize earlier this year. I wasn’t a bit surprised when it won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for 2017 – and was delighted when they brought forward the publication of her second book, The Island at the End of Everything, by way of celebration.

The two books share an island setting – and of course Millwood Hargrave’s wonderful, lyrical prose – but they have very different starting points. Joya, the floating island that is Isa’s home in The Girl of Ink and Stars, is a fantasy. Culion, where Ami’s story begins and ends, is a real island in the Philippines.

“There are some places you would not want to go. Even if I told you that we have oceans filled with sea turtles and dolphins, or forests lush with parrots that call through air thick with warmth. Nobody comes here because they want to. The island of no return.”

From 1906 to 1998, Culion became with world’s biggest leper colony. In the early part of the 20th C, thousands of those touched by the disease were forcibly transported to the island, their healthy children taken from them by government authorities to avoid further contamination. It is a story that has been repeated in varying forms in different parts of the world – from the Irish laundries to the Indian Residential Schools. A story of cruelty promulgated by arrogant authorities believing they know best and failing utterly to see the subjects of their experiments as whole people. Millwood Hargrave takes us into the heart of the story by showing it to us through the eyes of one of those children.

Butterflies dance over the cover of the book and butterflies form a thread that winds through the story. Mr Zamora – the man who comes to take the children away, and a villain quite as detestable as Dolores Umbrage – is a butterfly collector, someone who can only see the beauty of the butterflies once they are dead and pinned in one of his display cases. But it is the living butterflies who will connect mother with daughter, and Ami with her friend Marisol – the girl whose name means butterfly.

A story of love and trust, hope and reconciliation, told in language that is both simple and utterly poetic. A must-read for children and adults alike.

You'll Enjoy This If You Loved: The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave; My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson; The Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington Garimara.

Avoid If You Dislike: Stories of children taken from their parents. Confronting the realities of arrogant decision making.

Perfect Accompaniment: Dragon Fruit

Genre: Children's Fiction (9-12yrs)

Available on Amazon

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