Margaret Mahy writes wonderful books for small children (see for example, one, two and three), and she also writes wonder-full books for older children too. This is the first of her books for older children that I ever read; Granny and Granddad Strange Land gave it to Miss Eleven a couple of years ago (Miss Eleven reads at a very high level, so finding books for her which are challenging and interesting, but commensurate with her emotional age, is a problem, but it’s a good problem to have).
Meredith, the hero of the tale, has strange dreams about the island in the bay. The island is in danger; a developer wants to turn it into a resort. But the island seems to want to be left alone…
Family life, and small town life, and environmentalism, and community, and the supernatural, are woven through this novel. Meredith is a likable hero – just a girl, but a sensitive one. She has integrity and determination, and she is very aware of the nuances of relationships and place, in a way that many girls are. Eventually, she is a witness to the island’s solution, if indeed it is the island’s solution, and the start of a new community, in the utterly familiar way that new communities form all over New Zealand – a new subdivision, some new houses, new people settling in and forming connections that over the course of ten or twenty or thirty years become community.
I sat up late with this book one evening, and woke early and read the rest of it the next morning. It’s a compelling read. I find it remarkable that Margaret Mahy can write so well for very small children, and write superb novels for older children too. She really is a national treasure.