Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bright Island by Mabel L Robinson illustrations by Lynd Ward

I forget how I found the description for this book, but I really wanted it. Private island off the coast of Maine, strong willed girl, and boarding school? Yes, please! Then one evening, looking through my parents book filled basement, I saw this old copy. I am not sure if there is any better feeling than suddenly finding that you already have something that you really wanted. Maybe normal people don't know this feeling, since normal people know what books they have. But it is a good feeling. 

(Note the posessive there, as though the book were mine. I pretty much consider my parents books to be my books, just in a different bookcase. In a different house.)

The basic storyline is the coming of age of Thankful Curtis; a girl who has grown up on her family's island off the coast of Maine, totally content in her marvelous world, never wanting to live anywhere else. However, her parents and siblings betray her completely by insisting she go to the mainland for her last year of schooling. She had been her grandfather's favorite, so she is certain they would never do this if Gramps were still alive. But he isn't and she has to go. She ends up at a private boarding school where she is forced into unfamiliar clothes and a shallower seeming world of society and kids her own age, most wealthier than she. She longs for her sailboat, her parents, her island, and even her lazy pet seagull.

It is a somewhat familiar story line, but it is deftly written in an understated tone that earned it the Newbery Medal in 1938.  Thankful is a girl you will admire. She has such absolute certainty about the things she does. She makes mistakes and has a lot of learning to do, but she doesn't sacrifice her self worth to fit in with those who looked down on her. She makes a firm friend, has a few tentative relationships, a marriage proposal, and is left a better person for her year off the island. 

Lynd Ward's woodcut illustrations are marvelous. They are striking and full of movement. 

Except for this becalmed one. 

There are a lot of nautical terms, which I adore. 

A snowstorm. I love this picture!

When I was a teenager, I always thought an island of the coast of Maine was the epitome of everything wonderful. This may have had something to do with having a crush on a Mainer. But I loved Maine books and the whole idea of living on the coast or an island seemed marvelous. The part of me that is still 15 was thrilled with this book. 

And it is a good enough book that the part of me that is grown up was thrilled with it too.


  1. I have read several Newbery books. Actually, it will maybe become a New Years resolution one year to read them all! However, I have found some of them to be rather ummmm.....boring! Glad this one wasn't!

  2. Sometimes the Newbery books can be a bit... worthy. They don't give the Newbery for humor or fun. And you can tell. :-) There is a lot of angst and overcoming difficulty and coming of age. I am not sure I could wade through all the Newbery books. I need a good dose of hilarity every once in awhile.