Review (Plus): The Vanishing Island

The_Vanishing_Island_9780062221902_570e6Stories of lost treasure, placement of Davey Jones’ locker, and endless blue seas; the life of a pirate is mysterious and glamorous–yet scary, unknown and daunting. Barry Wolverton captures all of these elements in his new series of pirate lore, The Vanishing Island: The Chronicles of the Black Tulip.

Although I participate in “Talk Like A Pirate Day,” held annually on September 19, I am not one who typically reads pirate books. I do have two young boys, however, who are constantly in need of age appropriate books to challenge their reading.

Through the life of Bren, a young apprentice to famous map maker Rand McNally, we see a young boy who aspires to be more than his small town will allow. Before she died, Bren’s mother left him a coin coupled with a tale of a vanishing island. Bren is convinced the tale is true and he must get on a boat and sail into the blue yonder to discover this island and its treasure. Multiple attempts to board a ship lead him to become the town’s only juvenile delinquent in charge of the vomitorium. (You must read the book to discover what exactly a vomitorium is.)

Bren’s mother’s story, make believe and only that of bedtimes, becomes more fact than fiction when the Albatross docks with an admiral looking for a missing coin—and this admiral has a tattoo, the one of the Black Tulip. Coinciding with the ship’s arrival is a man who shows up to Bren’s vomitorium to leave with his last dying breath (or regurgitation) a coin engraved with a map.

Bren figures a way onto the ship, meeting new crewmates, a mysterious cook, a rich man who is sponsoring the voyage among other colorful and delightful characters. Wolverton’s well-researched life of a sailor is apparent. The terminology of ship life is consistent throughout the story along with the amazing description of the not-so-pleasant life of a sailor. I laugh as I keep writing sailor; PIRATE would be more apropos! I cannot wait to pass this book along to middle school boys (girls too). The dialect can be a little bit rough, but there was no profanity or anything I found to be questionable. It is gross. It is informational in nature. It is funny. It is scary. It is to be continued…

In the Classroom: After reading this book, I delved into more about the life of infamous pirates. It was fun to read about Blackbeard, the Royal Navy, Davey Jone’s locker, etc. Further research into the life of pirates was absolutely fascinating. To have this enthusiasm in your classroom you will need to set the tone: September is the perfect gateway–Start with the 19th and talk like a pirate all day. (An eye patch may even be a wonderful prop! Or maybe a parrot?)

Common Core Standards for grades 6-8 wants the integration of knowledge and ideas through research papers. To incorporate over eight standards you can have your students create a research paper with visual aids, 1st and 2nd sources, citations and connections to real world experiences. Book reports can go beyond reading the book and telling what they read. This is a perfect book for the report to be more than just about the book, but of the lifestyle, times and characters of the novel.


The Vanishing Island by Barry Wolverton, illustrated by Dave Stevenson (Walden Pond Press | 9780062221902 | September 1, 2015)

America Grelinger

America Grelinger doesn’t mind if you call her Ms. America. It makes her head swell and she loves the title. America is a former English teacher and has a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, now retired to raise two crazy little boys who think the funniest thing on the planet is to burp and toot… which is why she reads. Because it’s cheaper than counseling. Amy and her husband live with those two crazy little boys in Floyds Knobs, Indiana.