Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

On Sand Island

On Sand Island

Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Illustrator:  David Johnson 
Picture Book
For ages 6 and up
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 1970   ISBN: 978-0618231515

Carl has two pockets, one which is his "good-luck" pocket, and one which is his "keep-away-bad-luck" pocket. The good-luck pocket has salt in it to throw on the tail of a live rabbit, and the other pocket has a piece of beach glass in it that he found with his mother. Now his mother is gone, taken away by illness last fall.

Carl's family lives on Sand Island which lies in Lake Superior. They are a part of close-knit, mostly fishing, community. For Carl his best luck would be to have a boat of his own. A boat would free him from being tied to the island and the sad memories of his lost mother. Carl feels that ""A boat could take him out where the quiet was filled with water and sky.""

One day Carl finds some boards that the lake has carried to the shores of Sand Island. Carl decides to use the boards to build a boat. At the beginning of each step in the building process Carl is sure that the task will "be easy," only to discover that it is far from easy and that he needs to work very hard to get what he wants. Carl finds, for example, that he cannot handle the saw because it is too big for him and the work is too hard. Now he needs help and he turns to his neighbor Torvald for assistance. In exchange for sawing the boards Torvald asks Carl to collect strawberries for him. Carl's ""easy"" task becomes one that leaves him with an aching back.

Almost every step in building the boat; sawing, nailing, painting, and preparing the oars, ends up with Carl having to trade his labor to one of his friends in exchange for their help and for supplies that are needed to complete the job.

Once the boat is finished Carl has his good luck in full, and better still he gets to share his good luck with those around him who have helped him build his boat and who love him.

The author gives us a fascinating picture of the life and the people on Sand Island. We warm to the kindness that Carl's friends and family extend towards him, and smile at his determination to do whatever is needed to get the boat built even when it means having to do back breaking work. Through Carl we discover how rewarding hard work. We also see how precious it is to have our own dreams and to work towards fulfilling them.

The illustrations in this lovely book are lyrical and complement the almost poetic text beautifully. Both capture the feel of Sand Island and portray the place in such a way that we have a complete and well-rounded picture of the island and the interesting people who live on it.