Friday, May 22, 2009

Baby Island (Carol Ryrie Brink, 1937)

Baby Island
Carol Ryrie Brink, il. Moneta Barnett
1937 (pictured: 1971, Scholastic)

"Now, Jean," said Mary firmly, "we've just got to be brave. I planned everything out last night while you were asleep and the boat was drifting along. Mr. Snodgrass was telling me only the other day that there are hundreds of little islands in this part of the sea, and I'm hoping to reach one before night."

12-year-old Mary Wallace and her 10-year-old sister Jean are making the long sea voyage from San Francisco to Australia to rejoin their father when the SS Orminta founders in a tropical storm. Both girls adore babies, and in the confusion of the sinking ship they end up alone on a lifeboat with all four of the babies on board, including the Reverend Snodgrass's toddler twins Elijah and Elisha, and the two infants Jonah Snodgrasss and Ann Elizabeth Arlington. Both girls are amusingly and staunchly self-reliant, and when their nerves begin to shake they brace themselves with tales of their Scottish heritage. They do soon reach a tropical island, and set up housekeeping with all the zest of two little housewives cleaning a dusty room.

They laid a circle of stones beside the stream, and that evening had their first campfire. It was pleasant to have warm food again, even if it was only heated in cans and cups, but more pleasant still, it was, to have a friendly flame to hold back the dark mystery of the tropical night.

On the island, they also find Mr. Peterkin, a Cockney sailor who fled a threatening marriage to live alone on the island. He's dismayed to have domesticity and small children thrust upon him after all that effort to avoid them, but he is slowly won over by baby Ann Elizabeth, who admires his whiskers.

Throughout their adventures, the Wallace girls are, more than anything else, sensible. While not technically orphans, their mother died when they were small and their father had left them to the care of housekeepers, basically meaning Mary ran the household. So neither is too sad to be parted from family for months, although they do get lonely. They both adore babies and spent much of the sea voyage babysitting, and to a great extent their shipwrecked state is blissful. Jean, younger and more harum-scarum, adopts a baby monkey, and both girls revel in providing food and shelter for their little charges.

The Boxcar Children

About the Author
Brink was born in 1895 and died in 1981. She won the Newberry Prize for her 1935 book Caddie Woodlawn. Born in Idaho, she got her B.A. from U.C. Berkeley and married a mathematician.

Other Books
Anything Can Happen On The River
Caddie Woodlawn
Magical Melons aka Caddie Woodlawn's Family (sequel to Caddie Woodlawn)
Family Grandstand
The Highly Trained Dogs Of Professor Petit
Family Sabbatical (sequel to Family Grandstand)
The Pink Motel
Andy Buckram's Tin Men
Two Are Better Than One
Winter Cottage
The Bad Times Of Irma Baumlein (aka Irma's Big Lie)
Lad With A Whistle

Children's - Picture/Easy
Goody O'Grumpity

Buffalo Coat
Strangers In The Forest
Snow In the River

Adult - Nonfiction
A Chain Of Hands
Four Girls On A Homestead

All Over Town
Mademoiselle Misfortune
Narcissa Whitman
Minty Et Compagnie
Harps In The Wind
The Headland
The Twin Cities
Chateau Saint Barnabe
The Bellini Look

Other editions: