This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 18.3.
Little Jane and the Nameless Isle, the sequel to Little Jane Silver (2011), is a humourous, engaging story, replete with excellent historical research. It opens with short but dry relation by the narrator of how Little Jane (granddaughter of Robert Louis Stevenson’s notorious Long John Silver) came to be in her current predicament, but once the initial narration ends, and Rotstein’s characters begin to act out their lives for us, the story quickly grows into a “right riveting read.” Jane’s parents and all their crew have been kidnapped by their friend-turned-enemy Captain Madsea, and Jane and four companions commandeer a ship and set out to rescue them. Jane’s courage and determination are the driving force behind the success of their dangerous mission; her affection for her family and friends is the glue that binds the team of seeming misfits together. Characteristics that seem out of pace for pirates, like affection and compassion, are justified in both the stories the characters’ tell each other, and the narrative explanations of some of the back story (which is far more effectively woven into the narrative than the first few pages suggest). What I loved best about the book, though, was the subtle and seamless way in which the author introduces attitudes towards knowledge and learning. Jane loves books; her father loved reading, too, but—as they are pirates—books were a luxury they could ill afford, either financially or in terms of physical mobility. Jane’s discovery of the magistrate’s library is a wonderful accolade of reading that modern young readers would likely absorb without recognizing the important lesson they have imbibed. I particularly enjoyed Rotstein’s wry humour and subtle allusions to classics of English literature—a footnoted reference to Colerdige’s Kubla Khan (196), and uncited comments such as “It is a truth universally acknowledged” (77), or “A hit … a most palpable hit!” (138)—as well as to scientific discoveries such as antibiotics and binary numbers. Little Jane and the Nameless Isle is a must for any elementary or middle school library: such a refreshing, clever book deserves to be shared.