By Author / Illustrator
Family & Home
Head of Zeus
Hidden at the intersection of several busy highways behind the trees and scrubby undergrowth is an island, full of secrets... Pez has lived there for a while now, enjoying the solitude. She has a vegetable patch, a routine, her own way of doing things and a condor, who may be outstaying his welcome.
Runaway brothers Riley and Grayson call the island home, too. They keep their distance from Pez and spend precarious days trying to survive, still relying on the man-made world which speeds around them. Then Gil arrives, with his hagstone and a dream of happy families, and everything changes. The four of them find a way of living and believe they might stay on the island forever. But all too soon they witness something they should never have seen and they're in deadly danger...
Tania Unsworth constantly raises the stakes to write about trust, friendship, resilience and what really makes a home in this original, tense and action-packed survival adventure.
"Gil escaped just after his twelfth birthday in the middle of the afternoon." I was gripped from the opening line of this original and compelling story - who wouldn't need to read on? Not to spoil the story, soon Gil slips into a forgotten space, an island of trees and a meadow encircled by motorways, where he and three other runaways (or four, if you count Junk the dog) hide in plain sight.
It's a genius idea to set a book in the sort of place that is so familiar and yet nobody notices. Here Gil, Riley, Grayson and Pez don't just learn to survive by themselves, but to trust each other. Gradually, they forge a new family because "family isn't about fitting in or whether it's convenient or not or even where you're born. It's where you belong." They may sometimes feel a bit hungry, but it's almost perfect until they witness something that puts them in deep danger … something to remind them that although they may be resourceful, after all, they are only a bunch of children.
Nowhere Island is a brilliant story, with the sense of camaraderie and adventure of the Famous Five without the dated language and the feeling of entitlement (or the ginger beer). Instead there's a heartwarming subtext of cooperation, kindness and unjudgmental acceptance of the struggles of others that reminded me more of Holes or Pax, the Return. It's perfect for building empathy but also written so carefully that it seems not a word is out of place. The dialogue rings true, the description is woven deftly through the story, there's tension and excitement punctuated by moments of humour and pathos.
Here's a book I'd love to use as a class reader or read aloud but I'll also be recommending it highly as a 'read for pleasure'. Buy it and try it!
240 pages / Reviewed by Louisa Farrow, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+
Nowhere Island is a fast-paced story which focuses on how to survive in the wilderness. It follows four unlikely friends and a trusty dog from different backgrounds through a variety of situations. The story begins when Gil tries to evade another Foster home and ends up living on Nowhere Island - an island beside a busy motorway.
I really enjoyed reading Nowhere Island which discusses difficult issues that children may encounter throughout their childhood - foster care and child abuse. The journey of friendship throughout the story is uplifting, especially when Pez (a girl from the island) overcomes her lack of trust and becomes friends with Gil, Riley and Grayson. The characters complement each other and no-one is more important than the other, showcasing their different skills and talents.
The idea of found family rather than born family really aims to build stronger and kinder communities. I would share this book with any Upper Key Stage 2 class / children aged nine years plus.
240 pages / Reviewed by Donna Chadwick, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+