Laurel Snyder has written a middle grade novel that is equal parts mystery and coming-of-age story. Nine orphans live on the island. No more. No less. And they don't know how they came to be on this island, except for the changing ceremony once a year. The story follows Jinny, the eldest orphan on this idyllic island where food is plentiful and the snakes don’t bite. The only clue to an outside world is the library cabin, where Jinny reads books that used to be owned by a girl named Abigail. That, and the fact that each year, at the changing ceremony, a small child arrives in a boat to stay on the island, while the Elder steps into the boat to be whisked away over the horizon and into the unknown. Jinny knows she is supposed to leave, but she does not believe that Ess (the child she is charged to care for) is ready to be on her own. So when the boat arrives with a new child...Jinny doesn’t step into the boat. When she refuses to leave the island, there is no longer enough food, the snakes are no longer docile, and the cliffs and the calm water provide real danger.
How did these children come to be on this island? Who is controlling the mysterious boat? And why can there only be nine children, or the balance is upset? With gorgeous imagery and beautiful language, Snyder creates an atmosphere that is both enchanting and eerie. Part summer camp without adults, part survivor for kids, kids ages 10 and up will enjoy this read.