HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Bright Island
Author: Mabel L. Robinson
Illustrator: Lynd Ward
Publisher: Yearling, republished 2012
Related website(s): http://www.randomhouse.com/kids (publisher)
Language level: 3
(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 10 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Robinson, Mabel L. Bright Island (published in 1937 by Random House Inc.). Thankful Curtis, a fiercely independent teenage girl around sixteen or so, has been born and raised on the beautiful but isolated Bright Island off the Maine coast and lives there with her with her gruff sailor-farmer father Jonathan, her practical Scottish mother Mary, and pet seagull, the injured Limpy. She is the youngest of seven siblings. Four of her older brothers, Jed, Homer, Silas, and Petrarch, have long since married and moved to the mainland, and two others lie buried in the island’s graveyard beside her recently deceased grandfather. However Thankful is more like her sea captain grandfather than any of her older brothers are. Nothing suits her better than sailing and helping her father with the farm. Her best friend is a boy named Dave Allen who lived on the island for a year after his mother died and now works on a cutter but visits frequently. Her mother has homeschooled her all her life.
Unfortunately, the family doesn’t think that the life she loves is completely suitable for a girl. Her grandfather left money for her education, so her meddling older sisters-in-law have decided that this is the the year that Thankful will head to the mainland to attend a proper school for her senior year. But rather than live under the thumb of a sister-in-law to be in public school, she decides to spend some of her inheritance to board at a private academy. The remainder of the book deals with Thankful’s one year of classes. She is sufficiently advanced from home study that she will be able to graduate after just two terms. Thankful finds the unknown seas of school difficult to sail with the rocky reception from her rich roommate, Selina, as well as attracting the attention of both a suave boy named Robert and the handsome young Latin teacher Mr. Fletcher. Can she make good in her studies? Which of the three men capture her affection? And will she choose life on the mainland or back on the island?
Author Mabel Robinson won a Newbery Honor for Bright Island in 1938, and for Runner of the Mountain Tops in 1940. In Bright Island, besides a few common euphemisms (gosh, gee, blamed, darned), the terms Lord, for God’s sake, and b’God are used as interjections. There are references to smoking a pipe, buying cigarettes, going to school dances, and kissing and petting. The book might be a little too dense for some preteens to comprehend fully, and many of the themes of growing up are best understood by those who are older, say ninth and tenth graders. Also, the vocabulary could be a bit challenging for younger ones. It is a coming-of-age plot that would most likely appeal primarily to girls, especially as Thankful is presented as a strong young woman who sees nothing wrong with being good at the things that boys enjoy, and it has elements of a romance, though they are greatly subdued. However, it is a story that anyone can enjoy reading.