Sunday, June 03, 2018

The Island at the End of Everything

34045334Hargrave, Kiran Millwood. The Island at the End of Everything
May 4th 2017 by Chicken House
Public library copy

In 1906, Amihan is quite happy living with her mother (Nanay) on a colony for those touched by leprosy on Culion Island in the Philippines. IT's just the two of them, but there is a strong and supportive community including brothers Bondoc and Capuno and Sister Margaritte, who is Ami's teacher. When Dr. Zamora takes over as the administrator of the program on the island, he makes big changes. The island will have segregated areas for those who are sick and those who are well, and the children who are well will be sent to an orphanage on a nearby island. Dr. Zamora is rather unhinged both about the possibility of catching leprosy, and also about his butterfly research and collection. He accompanies the children to the orphanage where he frequently butts heads with Sister Theresa, who is not happy he separated the children from their parents. Ami misses her mother terribly, but does make a new friend in Mari. When she finds out that Dr. Zamora has hidden incoming mail and that her mother is ailing, Ami decides to run away and get back home to see her mother. Mari comes with her, as does a young boy also taken from his family. The journey does not go well, but Ami does get back to see her mother. An epilogue shows us what Ami's life is like 30 years later.
Strengths: This read very quickly, and had lots of interesting things in it. I actually was more interested in the first part of the book that described the colony and Dr. Zamora's plans for it, but younger readers will prefer Ami and Mari's adventure in running away. Ami is very attached to her mother, but they both make do as best they can when they are separated. The reaction of the chidlren in the orphanage to the children from the leper colony is realistic, and the way that language is used to describe and label the disease is interesting. Using the term "leper" is derogatory, and the people on the island prefer "touched". Wolk's Beyond the Bright Sea is on a similar topic, but set near the U.S.
Weaknesses: Dr. Zamora was so evil that he seemed like a caricature, although leprosy is a horrible enough disease that his actions aren't completely unbelievable. I would have liked more details about daily life in the Philippines at the time.
What I really think: This was a good book, but I will only purchase it if I have money left over. I don't see it being too popular with my students. It's a decent adventure, but you couldn't tell that from the cover.

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