The Children's Book Compass

Island’s End

Posted on: October 20, 2011

Island’s End by Padma Venkatraman.  (2011).  228 pages.  Putnam.  Grades 6-9.  Realistic Fiction, Novel.

This book is an example of how reading a book about a place that is new to us takes us on a learning journey.  The author’s trip to the Andaman Islands of India provided her with background about the indigenous people who live there.  Venkatraman’s expertise is in oceanography and her research trip to the Andaman Islands also gave her an opportunity to learn about the people whose history goes back seventy thousand years.  As the plot of the novel makes clear the challenge for these people is to find a way to keep their culture alive and prevent the destruction of their islands while at the same time building bridges with modern societies.  In the story the young teenager who has become the spiritual leader of the tribe, leads her people to safety before a tsunami strikes the island.  That incident is based on an actual event when the tsunami of December, 2004 wreaked destruction across the planet.  The author relates in her note at the end of the book how “several “primitive” groups living on the Andaman Islands escaped to safety.”    Their “ancient knowledge of the movement of wind and oceans and a sensitivity to the behavior of sea birds and island creatures may have warned these native people to flee inland in the nick of time.”   As this novel so strongly shows, modern people need to take a journey of discovery to learn about the ancient knowledge of these people.

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