Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Island of Thieves by Josh Lacey

Recommending authors to students can feel like hopscotch at times. They might latch onto one author such as Gary Paulsen, consume the shelf of twenty-plus books, then eagerly bounce around waiting for another great recommendation, like a puppy wanting a treat. I can't resist puppies and I don't want to let them down. The problem for me is finding that action adventure novel that isn't too difficult as they work toward reading fluency.  I can now file Josh Lacey's "Island of Thieves" to my action list. This nonstop page turner will satisfy the needs of students looking for a fun swashbuckling tale filled with danger, treasure-hunting, and thieves.

Tom Trelawney's parents are going on their first vacation without their three kids when troublemaker Tom burns down the shed causing the person he was supposed to stay with to cancel at the last minute. Tom's parents scramble to find someone who will take Tom and settle on his Uncle Harvey. Right after Tom's parents drop him off, Harvey says he's leaving for Peru on business and Tom can take care of himself all alone in Harvey's New York apartment. Tom doesn't like this "Home Alone" plan and convinces Harvey to take him with to Peru resulting in them both getting tangled with a notorious criminal and a plot to find a hidden treasure.

The plot is full of action, unbelievable (but fun) twists, and interesting characters. Harvey begins the story as an irresponsible adult who recognizes at the end that he shouldn't have endangered his nephew.  Tom is easy-going and saves Harvey multiple times. He doesn't change much and there is not much of an emotional arc to his character. He becomes more self-sufficient and realizes he can't trust his uncle, but he likes him all the same. There is so much going on in the plot that most readers won't notice the lack of character development. I did think the author did a nice job creating distinct characters with unique traits that had uncle and nephew bantering. Harvey always asks Tom to not call him, "Uncle Harvey," tries to get him to drink coffee, and tells him to not worry. Tom is Mr. Agreeable even if he's facing a notorious criminal, cracking jokes about wanting to stay in their house-prison for a month vacation.

Some of the humor is directed at adults making it an enjoyable read for all ages such as when they are running for their lives and his middle-aged uncle waves Tom to stop because he is gasping for breath or when they are on the plane and the uncle has an inflatable pillow, earplugs, and a mask, or the description of the cramped bathroom where Tom sat on the toilet and said his knees jammed against the bath. After living overseas and aging, I've experienced all of those things. Except in Barcelona the bathroom was so small my knees hit the wall (there was no bath).

The ending was a bit abrupt and the parents didn't really react in a normal way. You'd think they'd ground Tom for life and attack Uncle Harvey; however, it was consistent with Tom always being honest and doing the right thing. Or maybe the "happily ever after" was too corny. Like I said, it just seemed too abrupt. Some history is given on Sir Frances Drake and his exploration of South America. The pacing doesn't slow down and the information isn't in great depth since Tom and Harvey are too busy trying to not get killed through most of the action. The humor tempers the violence and Tom's innocence makes it appropriate for younger readers. If you are looking for humor, tension, and suspense then I highly recommend this one.

3 Smileys

No comments:

Post a Comment