Natural disasters, aggressive wildlife, parental abandonment, responsibility for a baby, and looming poverty make life on a tropical island less enjoyable than one might imagine.
The siblings met in Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts (2016) are back, and this time they’re in search of a home, as they have outgrown the car they sleep in. Ranging in age from infant to 11, Penny, Toby, Pippa, Kimo, and Kim have “varying degrees of brown hair and brown skin” and are related via five different mothers and fathers, none of whom is reliable and all of whom have left the resourceful children soured on adults. An encounter with a mysterious stranger in a dark forest eventually leads to the discovery that one of the fathers is even more dastardly than they had realized, and it is up to the children to save the day—and their island home—from ecological destruction. The unnamed tropical island they inhabit seems modeled on Hawaii in its flora, geographical features, residents’ fondness for ham, and local speech (a pseudo-pidgin described dismissively), but it is a bland and characterless rendition of the original. With the exception of Smith’s delightful pen-and-ink illustrations, the book does not quite pull off its attempt at a wry and whimsical tone: the children’s lives seem more like drudgery than adventure, their personalities are two-dimensional, and the world they live in is neither fantastical enough to inspire delightful escape nor realistic enough to evoke deep immersion in the story.
A miss. (Fiction. 8-12)