When the bell rings and the green boat emerges from the mist, gliding up into the cove, Jinny knows that it is time: time for her beloved Deen to leave and for a new child to take his place.
Now Jinny will become the Elder, and the balance of life on the island will be maintained. The ragtag bunch of nine orphans—each one “boat” (year) apart in age—are the sole human residents of a benevolent wilderness, busy chasing wild kittens and harvesting honey from docile bees, reading from a stockpile of tattered books, and inducting each new arrival into their ways. Once someone broke the rule about never picking the last of anything, but having experienced the consequences (no more curlyferns!), they are careful now to behave. That is, until Jinny—spirited, curious, and defiant—decides to break the most sacred rule of the island, throwing their universe frighteningly out of whack. The children’s hair (black, red, blond) and eyes (blue, brown) are described, and Jinny remarks on the dark skin of two of her fellow orphans; the cover art shows a girl with dark brown skin. Despite the idyllic setting, one where children can safely fling themselves off cliffs and surf air currents, the story is suffused with melancholy and the haunting absence of parents and former residents. The mystery of the children’s origins and the source of their stockpile of supplies are never resolved, perhaps indicating a sequel to come.
This charming, engrossing tale set in a vividly realized world is expertly paced and will appeal to fans of wilderness adventure stories and character-driven relationship novels alike. (Fiction. 9-13)