Title: The Way to Impossible Island
Author: Sophie Kirtley
Genre: Magical Realism, Time Slip
Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Published: 3rd August 2021
Synopsis: Born with a serious heart condition, Dara has been waiting for his Big Operation forever, and this summer it’s finally going to happen. The moment his heart is fixed he’ll row out to the island in the bay all by himself just like he’s always dreamed. But when his op is postponed, Dara snaps. When will he get to live his real life? Maybe the adventures he dreams of are just silly fantasies.
And then he finds a girl hiding in the boat shed. She wears animal skins. She has a real live pet wolf. She is, simply, impossible. Could Mothgirl really be from the Stone Age? And what is she seeking on Lathrin Island? As Dara and Mothgirl set out on a wild, windswept sea journey Dara begins to realise that when you stop worrying about what’s impossible, you can do anything.
A brave, life-affirming middle-grade timeslip adventure about finding your family and finding yourself, from the author of The Wild Way Home.
Twelve-year-old Dara is due to get his Big Operation this summer, and he has big plans for what he will do afterwards. Yet when the call comes that he must wait, Dara runs away to the island he has always wanted to go to, far away from reality, and his parents. When he arrives on Lathrin Island, he meets Mothgirl, or Mothga, who has appeared as if by magic, from the Stone Age. She’s slipped from the Stone Age into Dara’s time – and together, the two go on a journey together to find out what they are seeking, whilst finding out more about each other and themselves along the way in a unique time slpi adventure.
The Way to Impossible Island is one of those amazing books that reminds us that not everyone has the same chances at life. It takes a pair if characters – Dara and Mothgirl – and shows us the modern world and Mothgirl’s Stone Age home through the eyes of youngsters as they find a way to communicate with each other and gain an understanding of each other without judgement, and without rejection. Both have restricted lives – Mothgirl based on what her family and society expect from her in the Stone Age, and Dara is currently limited by his heart condition – his disability that he feels constrains what he can do, and how he interacts with people.
This book captured the innocence and joy of new friendship, and the natural curiosity of children when they encounter something unfamiliar to them. Dara’s world of illness and disability is foreign to Mothgirl – yet even though she senses he is different; she does not hold it against him. I loved Dara’s genuine frustrations with his disability and illness, the sense of feeling as though he is alone in the world. He must watch from the sidelines – except for this adventure on Lathrin Island. The story is gentle and meditative but still packed with action as Mothgirl and Dara explore the island and get to know each other, teaching each other things.
As I read this beautiful timeslip adventure, I couldn’t help but wonder what the historical implications of the cultural and language exchanges might have had – as the novel and its predecessor seemed to have this timeless feel about them, as though they could take place at any point in time. It allows the reader to explore worlds that are fantastical and real, and see how different people view the worlds they come from, and the connection that the character’s make over things they never thought possible – a beautiful and unique friendship that even though it is brief, shows the power of such a friendship, and the magic of adventures that nobody would ever believe – that perhaps are fables, and fairy tales that take us to wondrous places. For those who experience it, like Dara, it is real. For others, it is a rollicking adventure. This delightful middle grade book is magical and joyful, and I am sure fans of the previous book will fall in love with it, but one does not have to have read The Wild Way Home to understand this one, though there are some delightful realisations along the way in this one that connect to the previous book.
A great time slip book for middle grade readers.