Jan 14, 2013

Island of the Loons

by Dayton O. Hyde

Another book I picked up on a whim at the Book Thing, this one also shelved among bird books but not quite as erroneously as the last. It does feature loons although they are not really central to the story- or at least, did not feel so to me. This story is about a boy who grows up in a town on Lake Superior. He doesn't know his parents and has pretty much been raised by the whole town, is something of a scamp but well-liked by everyone. He goes missing one day in a storm (has his own fishing boat at fourteen) and ends up on an uninhabited island in the lake, with an escaped convict as his companion. At first the kid tries repeatedly to get off the island and turn the man in, but when the convict gets injured the boy nurses him back to health. They are pretty much trapped there for the winter, and end up slowly developing a friendship as the man's growing interest in nature (especially birds) seems to soften his nature. There's a happy ending in more ways than one- not only does the convict find a way to redeem himself to society, as it were, but the boy also meets one of his long-lost family members, although that is only thrown in at the very end of the book and you don't get any reaction to it at all.

Well. It's a good story, but it didn't really captivate me. Probably because it's written for younger readers and so lacked the detail or complexity I wanted. There wasn't enough about nature to suit me, even the appearance of wolves later in the story was kind of disappointing. I was also surprised at how extremely adept these two were at surviving in the wilderness- a young teenager and a man who'd been locked up for years were able to easily enough find and gather food, fell trees, build a cabin, etc. Maybe if you grow up in those northern parts these skills are just something everyone knows but it seemed a little too convenient. Yes, they had mishaps and struggles but getting supplies and knowing how to fix or build things was never an obstacle. It seemed a bit unrealistic.

The island really does exist, and it is a location where wildlife was studied and battled over to save the land from commercial development; so the brief afterward informs me. I just have to say I probably would have loved this book had I read it ten or more years ago, but I can't help compare it to the other books by this author I've read, based on his own experiences, which I found much more enjoyable.

Rating: 2/5 ........ 155 pages, 1984

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