Book review

Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo (1999)

A desert island story. This starts off as a great family adventure. Michael's father loses his job at the brickworks and his parents decide to sell their house and all their possessions and buy a yacht to sail round the world. Of course, sailing the world's oceans is a bit different from messing about in a dinghy on the local reservoir, but Michael's mum qualifies for her Yachtmaster's Certificate and everyone practises his own job - Mum is the skipper, Dad is first mate and handyman, Michael is the ship's boy and Stella Artois (the dog) is the ship's cat.

The voyage goes well. They master their fears and handle their vessel well. They visit Africa and South America and Australia, having the time of their lives. But as they leave the Great Barrier Reef behind them and head up through the Coral Sea towards Papua New Guinea disaster befalls Michael. Left alone at the wheel one night while his parents sleep below Michael is washed overboard:

The terrors came fast, one upon another. The lights of the Peggy Sue went away into the dark of the night, leaving me alone in the ocean, alone with the certainty that they were already too far away, that my cries for help could not possibly be heard. I thought then of the sharks cruising the black water beneath me - scenting me, already searching me out, homing in on me - and I knew there could be no hope. I would be eaten alive. Either that or I would drown slowly. Nothing could save me.

But something does save Michael. His football, which was washed overboard with him, provides just enough buoyancy to keep Michael's head above water. Hours later Michael awakes to find himself washed up on a desert island. He is exhausted and hungry and thirsty. How he would have managed if he had been quite alone on the island, I'm not sure. But he is not alone, on a rock shelf above his head is a bowl of fresh water and fish and fruit laid out on palm leaves.

One solitary man lives on this island, and if you want to know his story, you will have to read the book. Michael tells us, in his own words, how he learned to live with Kensuke, and how he came to love him.

A quietly told story, but plenty of drama and emotion.

What can I read next?

Michael Morpurgo has written a lot of other books. You might like to look at this one:

If you enjoy desert island stories, you could look at this one by Theodore Taylor:

Not a desert island, but surviving in the Australian outback, you might perhaps look at this one by James Vance Marshall:

I don't know how else to describe it, but if you really like the quietness of Kensuke's Kingdom, I think you could look at anything by David Almond, but perhaps especially this one:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

Kensuke's Kingdom features in these lists: