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Kensuke's Kingdom    by Michael Morpurgo order for
Kensuke's Kingdom
by Michael Morpurgo
Order:  USA  Can
Heinemann, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Michael, the narrator of Kensuke's Kingdom, disappeared before his twelfth birthday in 1988. Keeping a promise, he only told the tale ten years later ... After his English parents lost their jobs, his father acquired forty-two foot yacht Peggy Sue to sail around the world, with his mother as skipper. They were somewhere in the Coral Sea when the boy, a ball and his sheepdog Stella Artois went overboard. They were washed up on a twin-peaked, forested island in this variation on Robinson Crusoe.

It's 'a green jewel of an island framed in white, the sea all about it a silken, shimmering blue.' They were parched with thirst and hungry, when they discovered that someone had left fish, bananas and water for them. It turned out to be Kensuke, an old Japanese man who Michael first thought was an orangutan. Not very friendly at first, he banished Michael to one side of the island, keeping the other as his own, and forbidding the boy to light a signal fire.

When Michael ignored the old man's warnings not to swim and was badly stung by jellyfish, Kebuke nursed him back to health in his cavern - it seemed like a mansion after the boy's small cave. They became friends and exchanged English instruction for painting lessons. Micasan as he is called by Kensuke, helped his friend hide the orangutans from men who came to kill them, and finally was told the old man's story.

Kensuke's Kingdom is a charming tale for younger teens, of a castaway's encounter with a refugee from a different culture and another time, and of a friendship that develops between the generations.

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