The Island of Beyond
Elizabeth Atkinson
Carolrhoda Books
Middle Grade
Review by Kimberley Moran
I grew up in New York City but spent every summer in Maine where the rules were entirely different regardless of your age. My mother fed us breakfast and then ushered us out the door for the day. “Don’t forget your sailing lesson,” she’d say. “Stop at your grandparent’s for a hot dog if you’re hungry,” she’d add. We walked our bikes from behind the shed down to the street and took off. There was no slathering of sunscreen, hats, or even bike helmets. We were free for the whole entire day. We rode down to the back shore and tiptoed in the cold water looking for fish, snails, and cool rocks to put in our pocket and rub during the day. Then we’d head around the bend and fire down the hill whooping and hollering from the speed, hang left on to Court Street and pull up in front of the library. We’d lie on the cold marble floor when it was hot outside and read through the shelves. If we were hungry, we’d leave the library and cross the green to my grandparents house where hot dogs cooked in lots of butter were handed to us. My grandmother would be watching Days of Our Lives and drinking a lunchtime martini paying us no mind at all. Later, we’d head back out to see what frogs we could find in the gullies on the sides of the road. No one monitored what we did. If we got hurt, we shrugged it off or howled into the wind and kept on going.

Elizabeth Atkinson’s The Island of Beyond brought me right back to that glorious feeling of freedom. Eleven year old Martin has been sent to spend the summer in Maine with some distant relatives he’s never met. He is appalled at this parental move. Martin has been an outsider for most of his life. He doesn’t even have the comfort of parents who understand him, so he has very low expectations for what this summer in Maine will bring. Instead of judgement though, it brings freedom and a new friend who likes him for who he is. The island of Beyond is a mystery waiting to be unwrapped by Martin and his friend Solo. Together they explore the water, treehouses, and the value of acceptance. I was riveted by this book. I didn’t want to put it down for fear of losing time spent with Martin.

Martin is endearing, frustrating, and constantly evolving which leads to personal introspection around how we develop into who we are and how just one month can change us forever. As I read The Island of Beyond, I wondered how other people develop their fortitude, world perspective, and place within. Everyone may not be able to head to Maine for a summer of freedom and evolution, but we can all go there in a book called The Island of Beyond.