Monday, August 22, 2022

MMGM- Daybreak on Raven Island

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Bradley, Fleur. Daybreak on Raven Island
August 23rd 2022 by Viking Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

It should be exciting to be the first people to tour the Raven Island in years, but the 7th graders aren't all that thrilled. Marvin is most interested, since he likes to make films and is somewhat interested in entering a movie competition. His parents run a Korean restaurant, so don't have a lot of time to encourage this pursuit. Noah is new to the school, and still dealing with the death of his mother, which has made him fearful about a lot of things. His therapist has encouraged him to keep a journal as a way to deal with these fears. Tori is angry about everything, mainly because of issues with her brother Danny, and also because she was taken off her soccer team for poor grades and behavior. Her friends who are still on the team are at a tournament. When the teacher and chaperone, Mr. Thompson, has the students "buddy" up, these three end up together. After taking the ferry over to the island, they are given a tour by Mr. Thorne, who is dressed in an old fashioned guard's uniform. The building had been a fort, then a tuberculosis sanitorium, and then had been used for a high security prison. It closed in 1972, and the father of the new owner, Ms. Chavez, was the last warden. He met an untimely end when prisoners tried to escape, and the prison was closed down because there had been so many inmate deaths. There's talk of cursed cells and ghostly prisoners, and the fact that there is a film crew there makes this seem possible. Tori and the two boys sneak off into the nearby woods and go towards a lighthouse, where they see faceless ghosts that Marvin says seem like the dalgyal gwishin that his grandmother talks about-- ghosts who have no one who loved them to remember them. Marvin comes up with a plan to get off the ferry and spend the night on the island to make his film, and Tori and Noah get caught up in it. It doesn't take long before they are discovered by Mr. Thorne, who takes them to Ms. Chavez's mansion. She's not happy with them, but makes sure they call home, have dinner, and are locked in their room for the night until they can get the ferry back in the morning. Of course they climb out the window and start to investigate a number of odd things. They've snagged Warden Chavez' journal from the office and find some interesting things about his career, especially the fact that he was trying desperately to reform the way the prison was run and treat the prisoners more fairly. The kids hang out with the filmmakers for a while, and when one of them is shot and killed, they have even more to investigate. Will they be able to solve the mystery of the 1972 jail break, Bob's death, and weather or not there really are ghosts on the island before the sun rises?
Strengths: A field trip will seem like a really rare and exciting event to middle grade students, and the fact that the trip is to an abandoned prison makes this even more exciting. For a student like Marvin, this is a perfect opportunity! For poor Mr. Thompson, who has to chaperone even though he wasn't expecting to, this is less exciting and causes him to be harried, which gives Noah, Tori, and Marvin a chance to make a break for it. I love that this was handled realistically-- teachers, in general, never lose anyone! I also liked that Ms. Chavez and her staff tried to keep their eye on the students as well. The fact that young people could see ghosts and adults can't is right in line with how middle grade fantasy usually works. The ghost hunters were a good inclusion, since books that feature them, like Poblocki's The Ghost Hunter's Daughter and Schwab's Cassidy Blake series, appeal to my readers very strongly. The history of the island prison, and the connections to Ms. Chavez, make for a really well developed mystery. Throw in an unfortunate murder that must be solved, and an all night adventure with ghosts, and Daybreak on Raven Island has a lot to recommend it to tween (and adult!) readers. 
Weaknesses: This expanded the normal range of ghost activities a bit further than I am usually prepared to believe, but I am hugely skeptical about everything. My students tend to believe in ghosts, so they won't find this unusual at all. 
What I really think: This made me think, of course, of Choldenko's Al Capone books, as well as Sullivan's Escape From Alcatraz, but definitely gives an interesting spin on the idea of a prison on an island with the appearance of ghosts as well as an actual murder to be solved. My students are all about a good murder mystery, so I will definitely be buying this one, especially since Bradley's Double Vision books are strong circulators.


  1. Sounds like there is a lot in this book - an old prison island, ghosts, Korean lore, amateur film-making, friendships, grief, and a murder mystery - I think it sounds a very enjoyable read! Thanks for the review! :)

  2. I'll read this one before Halloween. The plot has so many elements making it a great selection for this time of year. Thanks for being a part of MMGM this week.

  3. This sounds like an excellent read, Karen! The three main characters all sound very compelling, and the mixture of field trips, ghosts, and more sounds like it makes for an exciting, enjoyable read. Thanks so much for the wonderful review!

  4. This book sounds like a lot of fun. I like the idea that the whole things starts with a field trip. Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. While I am like you about ghosts, the strengths you listed for this book have me wanting to read it, as well as that cover.. and you reference Escape from Alcatraz Island (which I am yet to read as well)..