Tree Castle Island
by Jean Craighead George, published 2002
“I felt unbound. I was free as the wind. And I wasn’t in just any old canoe, but one I had made myself. She floated, she sped, she was unreal.”
Looking for a children’s book that I could trust to be good, I turned to Jean Craighead George, since I’ve loved her other books. I was not disappointed. Set in nature, as most of her books are, this children’s book had a very unexpected twist–(spoiler alert)- finding a twin brother you didn’t even know you had. Most of the second half of the book deals with the two boys, finding each other, and then the denouement of their birth story at the end. It is a good children’s book to deal with the issue of adoption, and when to let children know their history.
At the same time, the other theme of this children’s book is about self-sufficiency in nature, with the boys on a deserted island fending very nicely for themselves. I’m not sure how possible it is to be quite as self-sufficient as these two boys are in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp. But in all honesty, it didn’t matter, as the characters were so like-able that it was easy to go along with the plot.
I found the descriptions of nature in the swamp very interesting, as I’d never been there, and any young reader who is into nature would find lots to enjoy. The adventures on the island would appeal to any young person who has longed to get away, create their own hut, and just live on their own, however wild it might seem.
I found everything about this children’s book very appealing – down-to-earth, exciting but not scary, and warm with compassion. Since the two main characters are boys, it may have more appeal to boy readers, but it should be enjoyable to every gender. Like Ms. George’s other books, Julie of the Wolves, and My Side of the Mountain, this book makes great classroom reading.