Title: Maria’s Island
Author: Victoria Hislop
Illustrator: Gill Smith
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Older children’s/ middle grade fiction, Historical fiction
Book format: Hardback
Description: A Powerful and enchanting tale of love, separation and stigma
My name is Maria Petrakis. This is the story of my life.
Inspired by the best selling novel, The Island, and retold as a story for chidren, Maria’s moving tale of how her fate was bound to the Cretan Island of Spinalonga is full of friendship and family, courage and hope. Above all, it is the perfect story for our time.
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: This is such a lovely and interesting story. Every year Rita and her family go to visit her Yiayia, her grandmother, on the greek island of Crete and stay for a while. One day Rita sees some old photographs and after finding out about them she asks her grandmother whether they could visit the town where her grandmother grew up. While in the old town of Plata, Rita and her grandmother Maria sit down to rest, and Maria ends up explaining all about what happened where she grew up, near the little island of Spinalonga.
After the book initially is narrated by Rita, the narration continues with Maria narrating what life was like when she was young. She explains what it was like to grow up in the town and about the island just off the coast which used to house anyone who got leprosy. As the story continues Maria slowly grows up and we find out more and more about the tale of what happened on that island where everyone was sent if they were found to have the disease. I have to admit to not knowing much about the island of Spinalonga when I first read this book, but it was easy to enjoy this book from the first pages and I was instantly captured by Maria and her tale.
I don’t want to reveal what happens but there are some sad moments when certain characters get leprosy and we end up eventually learning what life was like for them. But throughout those sadder moments are moments of hope and I love how strong and hopeful Maria’s character is despite all that is happening. The ending is good and I like what happens with the build up. I just love what happens in the end to the island and especially to Maria’s individual tale. It’s just an extra magical part to the story and I just love how it ends and how the book overall made me feel like crying happy tears.
The illustrations really make this book more special and more fun to read. I love how some pages have borders of lovely patterns while other pages will have illustrations of the characters and what is happening in the story. There are even some double page images which look amazing and I love how there are some details to spot. Each of the pictures feels so fun and lovely and I love how all of the characters look. There’s something so lovely about these illustrations, how well they capture the Greek island and I love how in many pages the island and its waters look so inviting despite what is happening in the story. At the end of the book there is more information about leprosy today and about a charity that is helping people in some countries where people still suffer from this disease.
Overall I have really loved this book. From the first pages I just loved the look of the story and it was so easy and compelling to get into from the start. The things that happen within the story were so interesting and this book did make me a little emotional with what was happening and with the good things that happened towards the ending too. The island of Spinalonga and what happened on it was a real event and it’s interesting to learn all about it from the perspective of a character like Maria in this story. It’s definitely a book I’d recommend for children who may want to learn more about the history of this island and more about leprosy itself as well as the positive message the book puts out against the stigma that some people got. It’s also just a really great story and one which I will want to read again!
What do you think of this book? Did you know about the history of the island of Spinalonga? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂