With illustrations by Rob Biddulph.
Published by Orion Children’s Books, 2023.
Lost on Gibbon Island is an exciting action-packed adventure set in Cambodia. 12-year-old Lark is shipwrecked on a deserted island and has to use her wits to survive.
The story is told in diary form, as Lark records her days on the island. Initially, Lark intends to send the diary out on the ocean in a bottle in the hope that potential rescuers might find it. However, what began as information for others soon becomes a means for Lark to process what has happened to her, and a valuable survival tool: she uses her notebook to make plans for each day thereby keeping herself focused and rooted in the now.
Lark is extremely resilient and inventive. She demonstrates enviable survival skills – collecting rainwater in giant clam shells, building a sundial and a raft, cooking snails in an empty tin can, and using the sun and a pair of broken sunglasses to start a fire. I loved reading about all the different ways Lark found to survive.
Lark is not completely alone on the island, however. She has Goldie, the baby gibbon, as a companion. The two of them protect and look out for one another, lift each other’s mood, and each morning sing together to welcome in the new day. It’s a beautiful and tender friendship.
I loved the description of the island. From the snakes in the mangrove swamps, to the red-footed caterpillars, deadly jellyfish and the phosphorescent sea, Jess Butterworth really brings the landscape alive. Rob Biddulph’s terrific illustrations also help to transport you to the island.
One of the book’s key themes is the environment and environmental activism. Lark’s mom is a journalist investigating the illegal trade in gibbons. Alongside Lark, we discover how gibbons are smuggled out of the country by unscrupulous criminals for profit. The book also shines a spotlight on ocean pollution. As is evident by the amount of litter that washes up on the island’s beaches, we see how huge a problem environmental pollution is. Particularly startling are the number of plastic bottles that Lark finds.
Lost on Gibbon Island is a pacy, eco-adventure with a terrific friendship at its heart. Fully recommended.
Suitable for children aged 8+
Thank you to Orion Children’s Books for sending me this book to review.