Stacy Slater's Reviews > Kensuke's Kingdom

Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo
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The Times (London) review quoted on the back of this edition calls Kensuke's Kingdom a "dazzling adventure," but those looking for a traditional adventure-survival story will be disappointed in this book. The main thrust of the book is the tentative friendship that develops between Michael and Kensuke and the gradual unraveling of the mystery of Kensuke's existence on the island.

When Michael and his parents set out to sail around the world, they were low on experience, but high on enthusiasm. A moment of carelessness on a rough sea sends Michael and his dog overboard, only to be washed up on the sands of the stereotypical deserted island. Except the island isn't deserted; it the home of Kenuske, an elderly Japanese man who has befriended the gibbons and monkeys native to his tropical home. By turns terse and tender, Kensuke slowly befriends Michael and shares with him the story of how he came to the island after his shipped was bombed in WWII. Convinced that his family in Nagasaki must have been annihilated, Kensuke has no desire to return to conventional civilization, and struggles to understand why Michael is desperate to reunite with his family.

Although the premise of Kensuke's Kingdom is interesting, the execution is predictable and somewhat dull. Despite being in completely foreign surroundings, Michael has an incredibly easy time surviving, even without Kensuke's help. Under Michael's tutelage, Kensuke goes from a limited knowledge of English to nearly proficient in an extremely short time. The final rescue scene, in which Michael's parents return for him after more than a year apart, is particularly unrealistic. Overall, the growing friendship between the old man and boy is the strength of the book, but it is probably not enough to recommend this book to intermediate readers accustomed to much more action in the survival books they read.

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