Awards: Short-listed, CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award, 2008
Winner, Die Besten Sieben, Focus, DeutschlandRadio (The Seven Best Books for Children), 2002
Themes: Prejudice, Racism, Refugee, Migrant, Neighbour, Violence, Fear, Freedom, Difference, Power, Humanity, Compassion, Care, Human Frailty, Exclusion, Embrace, Inclusion, Politics, Intolerance, Xenophobia & Human Rights
The Island is a powerful, dark & haunting parable without redemption which holds a mirror up to our fears and violence towards “the other” and shows no compassion for the way we fail to embrace our neighbour.
As such, it’s probably not a “children’s book” and probably should be read to an older audience.
The parable that deserves to be told and retold until we can finally recognise the image projected of us and cast it away with the violence in our hearts as we allow compassion to fill the void that’s left.
A man arrives on the shore of an island, the ocean had brought him there on his frail raft overnight. The islanders notice one thing very quickly… he’s not like them.
The islanders find all kinds of ways to live out their fear of the stranger, initially taking him to the opposite side of the island and locking him up continuing to exercise the power of racism, fear & violence. Their thinly veiled attempts at “doing something for the stranger” only show their unwillingness to act with compassion in any way.
Throughout the story a voice shines out in the darkness, it’s the voice of the fisherman who consistently calls to the islanders “we must help him.” The fisherman however is still not an innocent in the story, while he calls the people to take him in, to give him a job the fisherman never seems to offer anything but a veiled attempt at compassion, even his call to offer a job came with the line “he would probably work for less pay.”
The islanders continue to spread rumours, encourage fear and treat the stranger badly… they even inspire their children to have nightmares of the stranger!
This is a picture book that deserves to be read, with dark and harsh charcoal illustrations that are hauntingly fabulous, it’s honesty and refreshingly stark storytelling however leaves us with no happy ending, no learned moral, no welcomed stranger and will hopefully leave the reader(s) changed, or at least challenged.