Young readers are invited to set sail for Read Island — but not the one near Quadra Island.
This Read Island is made out of books!
Author Nicole Magistro was inspired by the real Read Island, and took the name a bit more literally. Her new book is of an adventure to an imaginary island made entirely out of books, and shows children how reading can take you anywhere you can imagine.
Magistro and her family have been visiting the island every year from her home in Colorado, but were unable to the last few summers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she was able to “visit” with her nine-year-old son through meditation, which inspired the story.
”Our family has been very connected to the Discovery Islands for the last 25 years. We have a small cabin on Read Island at White Rocks pass. It’s my very favourite place in the world. It’s also the place that we couldn’t go to until very recently because of the pandemic,” she said. “My son and I would do these little meditations and mindfulness things in the evenings to sort of calm us down and to get him ready for bed.
“We would always imagine our very favourite place. If you’re familiar at all with meditation, it’s a very common practice. We were both going to Read Island all the time in our minds. It just sort of was an aha moment for me,” she added. “It’s not just the real place, but it’s a metaphor for all the things that books can do for us no matter where we are in the world.”
Readers are invited to join a very brave girl and her animal friends sailing the ocean and looking for the island, which is brought to life in part due to the illustrations of Alice Feagan.
”When they get closer the reader starts to realize that in fact all of the landscapes are made form a collage art out of paper, books and text,” she said. “That’s where Alison really came in and made the illustrations for the story, to bring it to a more literal meaning so that kids could really see the symbolism.”
Through their journey, the characters make discoveries, meet new animal friends and learn the most important secret of Read Island: “This world of stories, safe and true, is always here to welcome you.”
“It’s funny because the metaphor was lost on me for a very long time. In no way did I want to depict a literal Read Island environment,” Magistro said. “I wanted for the story to imbue the ideas and feelings that I have and I know so many have when they visit such a beautiful and wild place, a place that’s really special. You live there, you know. It’s not like everywhere else.”
Magistro said she wanted to give children a love for books and for the natural places around us, but did not want to stifle their sense of joy in discovering these things.
“I live in a really beautiful place year round, Edwards, Colorado. It’s near Vail. It’s in the mountains, beautiful green, nature’s just so important for me,” she said. “We have seen wolves on our (Read Island) property, we sit on our deck and see humpback whales. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not everyone gets a chance to do that. I wanted to really bring that element in as much as I could without being literal in terms of the climate crisis or environmental peril. I wanted there to be exposure, awareness and joy in the environment to show how that inside-outside connection can happen for little kids and for grownups.”
“The other thing that I think is really important in children’s literature is to mirror the joy of childhood. There are certain very serious things that our kinds will have to face in their lives, but when they’re four, five or six, there’s a lot of fun and imagination and I think its important to honour that too,” she added.
The first event for the book’s launch will be held at the Surge School on Sept. 10. Magistro and her family will be travelling up to Canada for the launch. Books will be available at Coho Books in Campbell River and Book Bonanza on Quadra Island after labour day.