Feiwel & Friends
Maya Nelson is sick of the sea. She’s sick of her little brother and her parents and, most of all, she’s sick of being stuck on her parents’ boat, the “Pamela Jane.”
After spending all of her 13 years sailing with her parents from the Caribbean to the tip of South America and back again as they work as marine biologists, all Maya wants is to be stuck on land and go to school like a normal teenager. We can all remember being petulant teens, suddenly supremely annoyed by the things we had so recently loved. Nadia Aguiar’s Maya is just that teen, someone we can empathize with and understand. Aguiar sets the stage perfectly for Maya’s adventures into adulthood with the first of what is assumed to be a planned series, “The Lost Island of Tamarind.”
Tamarind, Maya has heard from childhood, is a hidden island floating somewhere in the warm seas of the equator. It’s a place where singing giants entertain travelers on the road and exotic species live apart from the “Outside.” Maya couldn’t care less anymore about hidden islands, but she still can’t escape the tale on the small boat as the story is recounted for her little brother, Simon.
But Maya’s sour mood is swept away in a violent storm that dumps her parents overboard and sets the “Pamela Jane” off course and without working instruments. She has to learn to work with Simon and care for her baby sister in order to find their lost parents. They come ashore on Tamarind, an island they thought didn’t exist, where carnivorous vines hunt them for a meal “ if the jaguars don’t get them first “ and a decades-old fight between the two sides of the isle drags them from the search for their folks.
First-time author Aguiar’s swiftly paced book has adventure and wonder on every page while painting a very vivid portrait of life on an island cut off from the rest of the world. There are pirates, child stealers, tree house communities, a magical stone “ all elements that would transfix middle-grade readers who may not be ready for “Robinson Crusoe” or “Gulliver’s Travels.” Yet, at the heart of the tale is a poignant story of a young woman coming into her own.
The story finishes up tidily, but obviously leaves questions in the air, setting up for one, and possibly more, installments focusing on Maya, her family, and the island of Tamarind.
“Jenny Coon Peterson