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The Vanishing Island

(The Chronicles of the Black Tulip #1)

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  126 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Does the Vanishing Island really exist? And if so, what treasure—or terrible secret—was hidden by its disappearance?

It’s 1599, the Age of Discovery in Europe. But for Bren Owen, growing up in the small town of Map on the coast of Britannia has meant anything but adventure. Enticed by the tales sailors have brought through Map’s port, and inspired by the arcane maps his
Hardcover, 347 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by Walden Pond Press
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Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  126 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Jeff Raymond
I think pirates are interesting, but, for whatever reason, the more swashbuckling narratives never seem to grab me. The Vanishing Island is probably the best of the lot that I've had an opportunity to read over the years, but even then, it's been more of a slog than an enjoyment, and part of it may be due to curriculum changes we've seen recently.

Part of the charm of this one is some of the historical nods. A kid desperate to get on a ship ends up apprenticing under Rand McNally, he eventually
Jun 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Bren Owen is bored of his small town, Map. He wants excitement, adventure, and to sail the seas. When a dying sailor gives Bren a strange coin of sorts, Bren’s journey launches into danger, mystery, and more excitement than he ever bargained for.

What I Loved:

The premise of THE VANISHING ISLAND is incredible. I love the mystery behind the Black Tulip, the magic, and the great legends. The mystery of Marco Polo’s journey is especially intriguing, and readers will easily ooh and ahh over the clues
Erik This Kid Reviews Books
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What I Thought- This was an amazing book! It had adventure, comedy, excitement, mystery – pretty much anything you could want in a book! Bren is a character you would like to meet in real life. He has dreams, and he’s clever in how he gets them achieved. Mouse is a cool character too. I really like how Mr. Wolverton doesn’t hide that sea isn’t always exciting – at times Bren is just sitting around at sea. There is death throughout the story, but it is not graphic/gory. There are some ...more
What an adventure! My students are also going to love all the little gross details.
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
In 1599, for those who lived in downtrodden Map, a tiny city in Britannica, the only thriving business was Rand McNally's map making factory. 12-year-old Bren, the son of a mapmaker, understands the toil and tough life his father endures working in the map factory. (Even though he's an excellent map maker.) Clever Bren envisions a more fulfilling, exciting life for himself aboard one of the many ships that frequently anchor in their town. He tries twice to hide as a stowaway on a ship, but gets ...more
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this aloud to my 9 and 7 year old. It starts pretty slow but it lays the foundation for a wonderful middle and ending. And it also leaves a solid opener for the next book.

As a parent I really appreciated how the book utilizes history to anchor the story. It is very well researched but not in such a way as to discourage the kid’s interest. It made it very enjoyable for me (the adult) to read aloud and kept me engaged too.

The swashbuckling nature and the male and female protagonists also
Jarm Boccio
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
What an adventure. . . and there’s more to come! A swashbuckling mystery set in 1599. Bren’s father works for Rand McNally in the port city of Map in Britannia. Bren himself has always wanted to see the world. He gets his wish through a series of mysterious events and a piazza or magical brooch that falls into his hands. Instead of punishing the stowaway, the Admiral of the Albatross uses Bren’s knowledge of mapmaking to help him find a mysterious island with a secret. But is the Admiral friend ...more
Lisa Kizer
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
I can't say much about this book. I did finish it, completely read it which I am proud of because i wanted so badly to put it down and walk away from it. 50 pages (50-109) is all about Bren working in the vomitorium as punishment and let me tell you there was way too many details about vomit. And it seemed that vomit would not go away throughout the rest of the story. So much it overwhelmed anything else that happened after Bren managed to get onto a ship and start his adventures.
Lindy MacLaine
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reminded me a good deal of the classic story"Treasure Island." It has many of the same elements: a young boy eager for adventure, the gritty reality of life at sea, the terrible deeds committed when greedy appetites are whetted. Engaging and entertaining.
Cecilia Rodriguez
May 19, 2017 rated it liked it
The story is set in 1599, a time when areas on the map are still unexplored.
Twelve year old Bren Owen is the son of a cartographer, and dreams of stowing away
on a ship.
A fun sea going adventure that also has elements of magic.
Jackie S
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
It's just really boring.

The characters have no agency and the story really meanders. I will say, it's very polished.
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure how I'd like this book, the way it started out. Now that I've finished, I can't wait to start reading The Dragon's Gate!
Aug 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
I do not like this book at all, it doesn't really go anywhere with the story, or have a good description and/or explanation of anything. I was always confused on all the different characters, and places. I couldn't keep people in line with who they were. I was CONSTANTLY scared when I was reading this book. I don't like it and I do not recommend this book at all! It was super intense!
E. Adeline
I received this book from the publisher on Edelweiss; I am not being paid for my review.

The Vanishing Island tells the story of twelve-year-old Bren, who desperately yearns for adventures on the high seas, far away from his town of Map. After a series of unsuccessful runaway attempts, Bren stumbles upon the Order of the Black Tulip, which enables him to go on the sort of adventure he's been hoping for, in search of the island from Marco Polo's final voyage. His talent at recreating maps and
Chelsea Smith
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
I got an ARC of this book through Goodreads Giveaway. It's been a while since I read a middle grade novel, but I tried to read it as my younger self, who loved books like the Bloody Jack series and True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. I have to say, I was really impressed. I really enjoyed Wolverton's witty, choppy writing style that balanced sophistication and ease of understanding (considering his audience). I would have been really excited by this series when I was 10-12 years old and I ...more
Sarah W
Jun 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure
In The Vanishing Island, twelve-year-old Bren Owen feels trapped by a future he does not want. He has no desire to become the mapmaker’s apprentice his father wants him to be. So what if he can memorize the location of items with a glance or recreate complicated drawings without a second examination? It’s the Age of Discovery, and Bren is determined to be a part of it. Bren craves adventure so much that he has attempted to stow away on three different ships. He faces a list of stiff punishments ...more
Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am tickled that I was sent this book for review. It is aimed at the 8-12 year old reader, but this "much older" gal really got a kick out of the story and I believe other adults and their kids will too. It is extremely hard to come up with a book that multiple generations can read and enjoy, but this author has done it quite well.

My favorite genre is historical fiction. I love getting lost in a story that has elements of the actual past interwoven with a fictional tale. I'm fascinated by
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Vanishing Island
Barry Wolverton

What it's all about...

An adventurous boy...Bren...son of a mapmaker in the late 1500's...wants and craves and needs adventure! Bren is lively enough to get himself into all kinds of unique situations. His punishment for one of them is holding buckets under men as they throw up! On one such occasion a man dies but not before he leaves Bren with a strange message and a strange bronze coin. Where does this message and this strange coin take Bren? That's what
America Grelinger
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Stories of lost treasure, placement of Davey Jones' locker, endless blue seas and the life of a pirate is mysterious and glamorous--yet scary, unknown and daunting. Barry Wolverton has created a new series of Pirate lore, The Vanishing Island: The Chronicles of the Black Tulip. I do participate yearly in "Talk Like A Pirate Day," but I am not one to pick up and read a pirate book; however, I have two young boys who are constantly needing age appropriate books which will challenge their reading. ...more
Saruuh Kelsey
This book should be perfect for me - it's got ships and sailors and maps and a hidden island. But something about it never clicked, meaning I liked it a lot but never loved it.

Bren was a pretty okay character - fairly standard for MG fantasy although I was impressed with him not being an orphan (that trend is way old and this was a nice change.) Still, I would have loved to have read this entire book from Mouse's POV. Mouse was much more interesting and complex than Bren and I want to know more
Jun 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I brought the ARC to school and handed it off to one of my most voracious readers, knowing she would devour it and give me some great student feedback. Well, I handed the book off to a third grader before having read it myself. Forehead slap. Her initial comment as she handed it back: "It was more gory than I thought it would be. I mean, I expect that from A Tale Dark and Grimm, but this one just caught me off guard! It was so gross in the vomitorium!".... I was intrigued. And luckily, she was ...more
Full review at:

Whoa! Quite a book! Part swashbuckling adventure, part historical fiction, part folklore, part fantasy, part ghost story, Barry Wolverton has given us quite an intense adventure. I couldn't predict anything that happened in the book. There were twists and turns throughout, and I never knew who to trust (though I am happy to say my favorite sailor was trustworthy). There were some really gruesome parts (blood and guts and vomit) and there
Feb 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
There were parts of this I liked. It took a long time to get going, though, and almost nothing happened in the first third of the book. Once the ship was at sea, I definitely enjoyed it more, but I do wish this book would have had a little more story. There wasn't a whole lot going on, and it was tough to distinguish the adult characters from one another because they had very little depth.

I gotta be honest, I am not sure I will continue with this series or not. I liked the writing enough, but I
Jessica Robbins
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
For complete review check out my blog at http://booksaplentybookreviews.blogsp...
Liked it, didn't love it. Interesting combination of alternative historical fiction and fantasy. Some gross parts (Bren does work for a time in a vomitorium, which is exactly what it sounds like). Bren is a nice character but I didn't fall in love with him the way I have with some characters, and Mouse is really a rather strange character. An interesting middle grade fantasy and I am definitely interested in reading the coming sequels but not a favorite. The details about sailing were ...more
Sep 29, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a good middle grade historical(ish) fiction adventure. Although it has made up places and people, I think this may spark some interest in the time period. The story is pretty solid and doesn't feel like it is only leading into a trilogy. Reader's will like the descriptions of life on a ship and the mystery surrounding Bren's trip. I enjoyed the fantasy elements to the story too, like how the paiza works. The ending leaves you wanting to know what will come next for Bren and Mouse.

Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Barry Wolverton's The Vanishing Island is absolutely incredible! As someone who loves Middle Grade adventure, I was not disappointed by this wonderful tale. The book combines Dutch Folklore and Eastern Folklore as we follow Bren on his adventures in Map and on the high seas towards Marco Polo's hidden treasure. It is a bit of Melville mixed with Pullman and a twist of Defoe that kept me turning pages late into the night.
Kristy Alley
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It always makes me happy to find a middle-reader book that appeals to boys without pandering to stereotypes about what boys like. The Vanishing Island is original and engrossing, and sometimes just a little gross, which is a perfect mixture for this age group. Boys and girls alike will relate to Bren and Mouse as they navigate treacherous seas and even more treacherous adults.
Laura Phelps
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: possiblemsba2015
Swashbuckling adventure, combined with historical fiction/fantasy, this makes for a fast-paced and exciting read. Wolverton is a wonderful writer and his characters are well-developed - a great start to a new series!
Alice Kuhn
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, adventure, 4thup
Young Bren Owen dreams of sailing the seas and finding treasure. When he get the chance to live his dream, he finds out it is not a glamorous as he thought. Above average fantasy, a bit slow at times. Good for grades 4th and up.
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Barry Wolverton has been writing for children for 20 years, helping to create educational books, documentaries, and online content for Discovery Networks, National Geographic, the Library of Congress, Scholastic, and Time-Life Books.

Other books in the series

The Chronicles of the Black Tulip (3 books)
  • The Dragon’s Gate (Chronicles of the Black Tulip, #2)
  • The Sea of the Dead (The Chronicles of the Black Tulip #3)