Thursday, February 28, 2019

Book Review: Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink (1937)

Mary and Jean are on an ocean liner traveling to Australia when disaster strikes: the boat is about to sink! Concerned about the babies on board the ship, the two girls collect them all in a lifeboat, which is then set loose in the ocean with only the children aboard. The girls and their four baby charges end up on a desert island, where they immediately set up camp, search for food, and begin to care for the babies as best they can. As the book progresses, they also meet a monkey and a reclusive man who inhabits the island, with whom they form friendships.

This 1937 novel by the author of Caddie Woodlawn (1935) fulfills the fantasy of every little girl who loves babies. While the descriptions of baby behavior might not be as realistic as what you'll find in the What to Expect series, they are perfectly in line with the way little girls imagine babies in their pretend play, and that is all that matters. This book is essentially one long indulgence in make believe, combining the best elements of adventure stories with the desire children have to be in charge of those younger than themselves. The illustrations by Helen Sewell are also great fun! They capture the whimsical mood of the story perfectly.

My husband and I took turns reading this aloud, and our older two girls (ages 3 and 5) really loved it. It was just the right combination of unlikely adventure and wish fulfillment to keep them completely hooked. Though they might have understood it a bit more if they'd been familiar with Robinson Crusoe, their lack of understanding of who "Friday" is did not prevent them from thoroughly enjoying the book. I imagine they'll read it again on their own when they get older, but it was a great success as a read-aloud at these ages.

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