HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Baby Island
Author: Carol Ryrie Brink
Illustrator: Helen Sewell
Publisher: Aladdin, reissued 1993
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Brink, Carol Ryrie. Baby Island (published in 1937 by Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc., 866 Third Ave., New York City, NY 10022; republished in 1965 by Scholastic Books Inc., 730 Broadway, New York City, NY). Twelve year old Mary Wallace and her ten year old sister Jean are on the S. S. Orminta sailing from San Francisco to Australia. Several years earlier, when their mother died, their father went to Australia to manage a big ranch and, while he was deciding whether he wanted to stay or not, left his daughters with their Aunt Emma, Uncle Angus, and Cousin Alex in Scotville, IA. Now the girls were heading to meet Mr. Wallace. However, a huge tropical storm arises, and the boat begins to sink. Mary and Jean both love babies and have been playing with several on board. So they go to check on them and see if they are safe.
The two find the three Snodgrass babies, two year old twins Elijah and Elisha and their younger brother Jonah, all alone. So assuming that the parents must have gone off to see what was happening, the girls rescue the babies. As they are getting into a lifeboat, Mr. Arlington asks them to watch his baby, one year old Ann Elizabeth, while he goes to find his wife. Suddenly, the lifeboat is lowered into the water and begins to drift. Eventually, it washes ashore on a deserted island, which they decide to call Baby Island. What will happen to the six youngsters? How can they survive? Will they ever be rescued? And who or what made those big footprints in the sand? As improbable as the plot may seem, this book by Carol Ryrie Brink, who also wrote Caddie Woodlawn, which won the Newbery Medal in 1936, and its sequel, originally called Magical Melons but later retitled Caddie Woodlawn’s Family, is a cute story.
As one reviewer noted, “For those interested this story does have a religious tone. The girls often sing hymns, recite Psalm 23 and Mary likes to preach on Sunday.” Also, the girls show a maturity not seen very often today. Another reviewer wrote, “This is the book I read as a child. However, the cover and the pictures inside do not do the book justice.” This probably refers to the Scholastic edition, which I also read. Scholastic replaced the original illustrations by Helen Sewell with newer ones by Moneta Barnett and used a more modern looking cover. Scholastic often did things like that. If someone wants to buy the book, I would suggest trying to find the Aladdin reprint of 1993.