Written by Nicky Singer
Illustrated by Chris Riddell
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Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award | One of our Books of the Year 2015 - December 2015 Book of the Month Island is a powerful and vivid new story from Nicky Singer, the prize-winning author of Feather Boy. London teenager Cameron is cast away on an uninhabited island in the Arctic with his scientist mother Pascale, who seems more interested in her research than him; leaving him to explore this alien tundra landscape and its otherworldly inhabitants. He meets Inuluk, an Inuit girl, accompanied by her grandmother Atka, and is plunged into their spirit world of polar bears, nature and dreams. Nicky Singer vividly captures the vulnerability and the swagger of a teenage boy outside his comfort zone, and contrasts this with the serene knowing of Inuluk as she tries to teach him about their habitat; under threat from global warming, and their lifestyle; where food, warmth and shelter are a luxury, not a guarantee. Island was originally commissioned as a play by the National Theatre in London and the book has wonderful illustrations by Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell.
Island by Nicky Singer
No one’s an island, Cameron. You, your parents, London, Qikiqtaruk, the whales, the guillemots, the living, the dead. We’re all connected. If one moves we all move.
Urban teenager Cameron arrives on an uninhabited arctic island. He is prepared for ice and storms and (stripped of his smart technology) possibly boredom. He is not prepared for 24 hour daylight and erupting graves. At first Cameron believes the explanations of his research scientist mother. But – as the island reveals itself to him – he begins to see (and hear) things which push him towards a very different reality. One of them is an Inuit girl. The other is a large white bear.
As Nicky says "Island started life as a play - a special commission by the National Theatre. The story was sparked by a chance remark of a friend of mine. She'd visited a real island - the Arctic island of Herschel, off the coast of the Yukon, Canada. You have to be careful where you tread there, she told me, becaused the graves on the island are opening. They're doing what, exactly?! It's true, she said. For 2000 years the local people buried their dead straight into the permafrost soil. But now, because of global warming, that ice is melting. The graves are throwing up the bones of the dead.
I picked up my notebook...and did some reseach. I discovered that the island has no bedrock so, if the melting continues then, in time, the entire island will simply just wash away, slip into the sea. Cease to exist. So suddenly the island seemed to me to be a kind of metaphor for what happens when we don't pay attention, whe we forget how interconnected we all are. East. West. But also North, South. I began to imagine a story, a teenage boy, Cameron, arrogant, blundering, plugged into his iPhone, his iPod, not paying attention. Rather like us. And a local girl, Inuluk, knowing that she has just one chance to get him to pay attention. And if she fails, she and her people and her island and all the creatures on it will die. A story of love and fear and dreams and ice-bears...
And then...I totally loved making the play and working with the incredibly creative team but after the show in the Cottesloe Theatre and the 40 London schools tour, it was all over. I couldn't believe it. I'm a novelist. I'm used to leaving a trace. A book. A real thing that floats about when I'm not there.
But Island was gone. The play slipping away much as the island might do one day. About a year passed. And then there was a sudden flurry of newspaper articles and the melting ice-caps. Five people rang me up in the same week - what happened to Island? they asked. Well nothing, it's gone. Slipped away. Then write it as a novel they said! Young people are our future. They must have a chance to engage with what's going on in the artic. Do it. Do it now! So I have. And I've loved Cameron and Inuluk and the Ice-bear all over again. I hope you might too."
Chris Riddell loved the story and the message of Island and agreed to illustrate it, with his royalties going to Greenpeace.
A photo of Nicky and her book with Aurora, Greenpeace's huge animatronic polar bear, and below, a video inside the bear with a Greenpeace activist – Chris – driving and Nicky pushing one of Aurora’s ‘roar’ buttons. Yes – she opens her mouth and roars!
“Compelling, moving drama” The Independent
"Just finished reading your beautiful text and am now rather in love with Island" Chris Riddell
About the Author
More books by Nicky Singer
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