Elementary: Trends Older

, Middle School

The Islanders

Mary Alice Monroe & Angela May








Environment & Conservation


This was going to be the worst summer ever! 

So says Jake as he waits for the ferry to take him to stay with his grandmother, Honey, on Dewees Island in the Lowcountry of South Carolina – very much against his will. No friends. No Wi-Fi. And, minutes after the ferry leaves the dock, no cell phone as it slips over the rail and into the water. What is a modern kid to do?  

As it turns out, there is plenty of fun – and mischief – to get into on Dewees Island. Jake makes fast friends with a local girl, Lovie, and another summer kid, Macon. Together they explore all the island has to offer, becoming real junior naturalists.  

“You three children are responsible for arriving at the gazebo each morning at six thirty sharp. … That’s why it’s called The Dawn Patrol.” 

One bad decision involving an abandoned boat that wasn’t really abandoned lands the trio serving time on the Dawn Patrol, surveying the beach for turtle nests. And while getting up before the sun doesn’t sound much like summer vacation, the kids quickly dedicate themselves to helping the little turtles get the best possible start in life.  

We watched, almost holding our breath, as one lone hatchling, dark brown and only three inches long, wiggled its flippers into the sand as it headed straight for the sea.  

There are friendship missteps to negotiate. Jake learns to record his observations in his father’s old journal and explores the books on his father’s childhood bookshelf, including Read to Them favorite My Side of the Mountain. And there is nothing like dozens of brand new baby turtles hatching in the middle of a star-filled night to make you forget all about video games.  

This novel is about more than a screen-free summer of turtle rescue. Jake comes to realize that his grandmother is struggling with a deep sadness brought on by the recent death of her husband, and together Jake and Honey find a path out of that darkness. Jake also has to face the fact that the combat wounds that his father is facing won’t heal easily. 

Next year is going to be the best summer ever! 

Schools reading The Islander will learn more about turtles and the conservation of their delicate habitats, the lives of military families, and how to help others in need of emotional support. Your students might be so inspired that they will want to find ways to practice conservation in your community. And after your families enjoy The Islanders, there is a sequel – Search for Treasure.  

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