Abel's Island

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by William Steig. Novel. pages. Grades 3-5.
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Review

It is 1904 and debonair Abelard Flint, a young mouse, is swept away while on a picnic with his lovely wife, Amanda, trying to retrieve her scarf during a storm on the river. He comes to island in the middle of the river and is forced to survive there using skills he didn’t know he had. He also continues sending messages downstream in various pots he makes. Always the messages promise a substantial reward for his rescue. For a while it seems that rescue is in sight when he meets Gower Glackens, an elderly frog, who provides companionships for a while and promises to send help, but forgets. By this time Abel has become a skilled sculptor. He rescues himself by waiting until the driest part of the next summer, swimming to shore and arriving home, with scarf to his beloved Amanda.

This is survival on a miniature scale and therein lies its delight. Why Steig might have chosen to tell a survival story in this way is a topic for discussion. Readers might like to compare Abel's resources, skills and situation with that of Brian in Hatchet or some other wilderness survival story. Abel, like many who have to face themselves so starkly, changes as the book goes on. Students can look for evidence of the changes in his character in his actions.

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