16 July 2011

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Sixty!


Distant Isles is an exciting theme. Islands mean many things in many books, and a few months ago, when I promised someone who suddenly went on blogging sabbatical that we would have one month just for island settings, I had a whole bunch in mind, from novels by J.M. Barrie, Daniel Defoe, Kenneth Grahame, Ann Halam, Madeleine L'Engle, Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells, and Johann Wyss, to name a select few. And if I were less frazzled with life, I'd definitely have one of those elite islands here for you in this post.

As things stand, however, I can only share the one island I kind of hoped I wouldn't have to write about . . . and say that with the way things are going, I'm not sure whether I can host Locus Focus at all in August. =(

Heaping insult upon insult, the following book counts as the third to be featured on Locus Focus in which the title is the same as the setting--which kind of brings down the triumph Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins achieved last week. (See Locus Focus: Take Fifty-Nine.) Ah, life . . .

Surprise Island
The Boxcar Children #2: Surprise Island
by Gertrude Chandler Warner


[Mr. Alden] began, "Once upon a time, my father bought me an island."

"He
bought one!" cried Henry.

"Yes," Mr. Alden went on. "The island is small. There is nothing much on it except a small house, a barn, and a fisherman's hut. My father wanted a quiet place to keep his best horses. Old Captain Daniel, who runs the motorboat, lives in the fisherman's hut now. Let's all go down to the island and look it over. If you want to stay there all summer, you may."

"Oh, grandfather!" cried Jessie. "We would like it more than anything in the world. It will be just like the boxcar days!"


I guess there was only one way for Gertrude Chandler Warner to top her first story about poor orphans in a boxcar, and it was by writing a follow-up about rich children on an island. =P But Surprise Island is no spoiled brat's getaway with state-of-the-art amenities and a host of personal assistants waiting on their young charges hand and foot. As most "rich kids" who haven't been spoiled especially rotten can tell you, the real fun is getting to pretend they're "poor."

And that is why Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny Alden are thrilled when they learn they'll have to spend the whole summer in a barn that is possibly in need of repairs, cooking their own food and foraging for it when necessary, living almost exactly like they did when they were homeless. This time, however, they know they're just playing. And in case they have any illusions to the contrary, the avuncular Captain Daniel, who boats over to the mainland to buy them supplies whenever they run short, would surely set them straight. (Yes, it's kind of hypocritical . . . but no more than Robinson Crusoe getting to salvage everything of worth from the wreck before Defoe finally allows a storm to take it away.)

If you've read The Boxcar Children (See my Reading Diary entry!), then you know that although the Alden orphans are, in a very real sense, on their own, they are not entirely alone. There is an adult who takes an interest in them and gives them a bit of extra help they might not otherwise have had. Surprise Island takes the same formula and isn't ashamed to be more obvious about it: the Aldens might be "on their own" on their grandfather's island, but the waters that seem to isolate them from the mainland might as well be the encircling arms of a guardian. Surprise Island is the world's biggest, safest free-range daycare . . . but don't let on to the children. ;-)

Image Source: Boxcar Children #2: Surprise Island by Gertrude Chandler Warner

12 comments:

Syrin said...

I am taking it from your not so glowing description that there is no real conflict in this book to speak of? "Kids play on deserted island" doesn't sound very interesting to me anyway. :)

Shaz said...

I've never read any of the Boxcar Children books and since I don't like surprises, I think I'll be giving this one a miss.

I see next week's Locus Focus is about a movie island ... which means I'll be joining in! Any excuse to proclaim my love of a certain film series!

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Syrin -- Bingo! No conflict at all . . . unless you count the "mystery" of the nice handyman who also lives on the island and knows an awful lot about scholarly things, but won't tell the children his full name. (Gasp!!!)

Shaz -- YAY! =D I'll definitely look forward to Saturday!

Kate said...

I don't think I've ever read anything past the first Boxcar Children - 'cause, you know, they weren't in a boxcar anymore and I couldn't see the point :)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I think I kept going with the series (as far as #2--Ha!) because the books seemed like solid classics and I was riding high on all the Baby-sitters Club books that had turned out to be so good. But not all juvenile series are created equal, obviously. =P

antiaphrodite said...

I've always liked that image you use for these posts, and just now I tried to read a book like that.

You make it look so easy :-)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

The background was custom designed, but the girl is a stock image. =P She's on lots of other blogs, which means (I guess) that she's free to "grab" if you want to make your own Empowered Woman Reader badge. (LOL!!!)

antiaphrodite said...

Yeah, but she looks so much like you! I'd thought she was custom designed, and the background was the stock image :-)

Empowered Woman Reader

*wince* X-(((

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I must now confess that I'm not really empowered. =P But I guess the designer of the badge is, and she approved the image accordingly.

And you think she looks like me, aye? LOL! I'm the one who's trying to look like her! ROFL . . .

antiaphrodite said...

What? Her whole look is totally based on your style! :-)

Kate said...

Yeah, nothing beats the Baby-Sitters Club.

Unless, of course, it's Sweet Valley High...

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

My own favourite Sweet Valley series was Sweet Valley Kids. I'd probably never be able to get through the stories again today, but I remember that all the storylines were wonderful.