Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Island of Horses - a bookwrap

The book I am featuring today was originally published in 1956.  The New York Review Children's Collection re-published it in 2004.
This book was chosen by the Sunday Times (London) as one of its 99 Best Books for Children.  The Age range is 9-12 years and the Grade level is 4-7. It is in hardcover and has 224 pages.  


Authored by Ellís Dillon

Praise for the book...

"Eilís Dillon weaves a magic Irish spell and an A-1 mystery-adventure story, taut with action and suspense…The tale sparkles with the atmosphere of the sea and of small-town life."
The New York Times Book Review

"A thumping good read." (The Irish Press)

"A very good story about two boys who set out to explore a deserted island off the Connemara coast, and about the adventures that follow. All are well within the bounds of probability ... The people are real, the Irish background rings true, and there is a hard, spare poetry in the telling of the story." (The Guardian)

"Has everything: good characterization, atmosphere, pace, style." (The Library Journal)

"An exciting tale by a fine writer." (J.H. Laker, Yarmouth Mercury)
"Eilís Dillon brings an original and outstanding gift to her storytelling." (British Weekly)

About the book...

The folks of Inishrone, live on one of the islands off the western coast of Ireland.  Everyone's life is bound in one way or another to the vast sea that surrounds them, so boats are woven into the very fibre of their beings.  

Two teenage boys, Pat Conroy and his friend Danny MacDonagh head off by boat on an unforgettable adventure to the Island of Horses where they are forbidden to go.  Once there they must practice their survival skills and to their delight they discover a herd of beautiful wild horses in a valley.  They manage to capture a stunning little black colt which they bring aboard their boat and back to their island. He is a gift like no other they have ever witnessed.  The boys decide not to keep the prize pony for themselves even although Pat's heart aches to do so.  They instead  give it as a bridal present to appease a mean, tyrannical shopkeeper on another island.  This resplendent bribe will result in the shopkeeper consenting to give his lovely daughter in marriage to one of the boys from the Inishrone clan.

Once the colt is unveiled to the islanders the boys find themselves in a load of trouble.  These difficulties lead the duo to brave turbulent seas, tangle with an evil conniving horse trader relying only on the wisdom and advice of Pat's fragile grandmother and their own instincts to guide them.  

The story is told eloquently from start to finish and gives the reader a perfect portrayal of rural Irish life.  The characters penned are strong and believable.  There is the perfect blend of suspense and resolve throughout. I loved the book and  I highly, highly recommend it.  

About the Author...

Eilís Dillon (1920-1994) wrote more than thirty books for young people, as well as fiction for adults, including the best-selling historical novel Across the Bitter Sea, about the struggle for Irish independence in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With few exceptions, her young people’s books are set in the west of Ireland, in small communities struggling to make a living on the islands and along the Atlantic coast. 

As the critic Declan Kiberd wrote in Dillon’s obituary: “What Laura Ingalls Wilder did for children’s literature in the US, she achieved in Ireland, imparting a sure historical sense in books such as The Singing Cave. That interest in history was a natural expression of her curiosity of mind, and of her family inheritance. 

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