The Islanders

by Mary Alice Monroe (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade
Series: Islanders

"Storytelling for young readers at its finest--equal parts summer adventure and environmental suspense...[a] love letter to family, friendship, and the natural world." --Kwame Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of The Crossover

From New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe comes a beautiful story of friendship, loss, and the healing power of nature in her first book for middle grade readers.

Eleven-year-old Jake's life has just turned upside-down. His father was wounded in Afghanistan, and his mother is going to leave to care for him. That means Jake's spending the summer on tiny Dewees Island with his grandmother. The island is a nature sanctuary--no cars or paved roads, no stores or restaurants. To make matters worse, Jake's grandmother doesn't believe in cable or the internet. Which means Jake has no cell phone, no video games...and no friends.

This is going to be the worst summer ever! He's barely on the island before he befriends two other kids--Macon, another "summer kid," and Lovie, know-it-all who lives there and shows both Jake and Macon the ropes of life on the island. All three are struggling with their own family issues and they quickly bond, going on adventures all over Dewees Island. Until one misadventure on an abandoned boat leads to community service. Their punishment? Mandatory duty on the Island Turtle Team. The kids must do a daily dawn patrol of the beach on the hunt for loggerhead sea turtle tracks. When a turtle nest is threatened by coyotes, the three friends must find a way to protect it. Can they save the turtle nest from predators? Can Jake's growing love for the island and its inhabitants (be they two-legged, four-legged, feathered, or finned) help to heal his father?

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School Library Journal

Gr 3-6--Jake Potter, a military kid, finds himself stuck for the summer on a remote South Carolina island with his grandmother. His dad has been injured in the field, and his mom needs to go and care for him. With the injury to worry about and no phone, internet, or video games, Jake slowly begins to explore the island and make friends with two other 11-year-olds. At first depressed, his grandmother begins to perk up as Jake makes discoveries. Jake, who is white, and his friends Lovie, who is also white, and Macon, who is Black, find a loggerhead turtle nest on the beach and work to protect it. Monroe and May's middle grade debut is a thoroughly wholesome adventure, but younger readers may enjoy this story more than middle schoolers. The descriptions of the island's wildlife are vibrant, and young animal lovers will be delighted at the information about turtles and other animals. Otherwise, the plot unfolds quite slowly, without many points of conflict or the character development that would give the book emotional resonance. VERDICT A good purchase for elementary collections where there are budding naturalists. A secondary purchase otherwise.--Kate Fleming, Hosford M.S., Portland, OR

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

In collaboration with journalist May, adult author Monroe makes her middle grade debut with this comforting beach read about the healing power of friendship and nature. When Jake's military officer father is wounded in Afghanistan, necessitating a visit from Jake's Air Force lieutenant colonel mother, the 11-year-old must visit his enterprising grandmother Honey on Dewees Island, S.C., the lush nature preserve where she lives. He dreads a summer without technology and his New Jersey friends, but meeting a fellow summer kid, fact lover Macon, and local island expert Lovie, a skilled boater, helps Jake engage with the island's "Huck Finn life." Discovering his father's naturalist journals, Jake nurtures an ecological interest of his own that escalates when the three friends must serve community service on dawn turtle patrol after appropriating a boat they thought abandoned. The narrative handles weighty issues considerately, including Lovie's feelings about her biological father and how the boat incident affects Macon, who is Black, more than his cued-white friends. If the fact that each friend harbors a secret feels a bit tidy, the small-town community instills a strong sense of place, and the trio's chemistry holds promise for future installments. Includes resources about the island and its wildlife. Ages 8-12. (June)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

This is storytelling for young readers at its finest—equal parts summer adventure and environmental suspense, The Islanders is a middle-grade love letter to family, friendship, and the natural world. —Kwame Alexander, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Crossover
Mary Alice Monroe
Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-seven books, including the bestselling The Beach House series. Monroe also writes children's picture books, and a new middle grade fiction series called The Islanders. She is a member of the South Carolina Academy of Authors' Hall of Fame, and her books have received numerous awards, including the South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing; the South Carolina Award for Literary Excellence; the SW Florida Author of Distinction Award; the RT Lifetime Achievement Award; the International Book Award for Green Fiction; the Henry Bergh Children's Book Award; and her novel, A Lowcountry Christmas, won the prestigious Southern Prize for Fiction. The Beach House is a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, starring Andie MacDowell. Several of her novels have been optioned for film. She is the cocreator and cohost of the weekly web show and podcast Friends & Fiction. Monroe is also an active conservationist and serves on several boards. She lives on the South Carolina coast, which is a source of inspiration for many of her books.

Angela May is the founder of May Media and PR and a former award-winning television news journalist who helps promote great books and share important community stories as a media specialist. She has been working with Mary Alice Monroe for more than a decade. The Islanders series are their first books together! Angela's husband is a middle school assistant principal. They have two children and live in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Connect with her at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Aladdin Paperbacks
Publication date
June 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV029010 - Juvenile Fiction | Nature & the Natural World | Environment
JUV002240 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Turtles
Library of Congress categories
Sea turtles
Nature conservation
Wounds and injuries
Conservation of natural resources
JUVENILE FICTION / Social Themes / Friendship
Dewees Island (S.C.)
JUVENILE FICTION / Animals / Turtles & Tortoi

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