The Chronicles of the Black Tulip: The Vanishing Island
Author: Barry Wolverton
Published September 1st, 2015 by Walden Pond Press
Goodreads Summary: 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 father creates as a cartographer for the cruel and charismatic map mogul named Rand McNally, Bren is convinced that fame and fortune await him elsewhere. That is, until his repeated attempts to run away land him a punishment worse than death—cleaning up the town vomitorium.
It is there that Bren meets a dying sailor, who gives him a strange gift that hides a hidden message. Cracking the code could lead Bren to a fabled lost treasure that could change his life forever, and that of his widowed father. But to get there he will have to tie his fate to a mysterious Dutch admiral obsessed with a Chinese legend about an island that long ago disappeared from any map.
Before long, Bren is in greater danger than he ever imagined, and will need the help of an unusual friend named Mouse to survive. Barry Wolverton’s thrilling adventure spans oceans and cultures, brings together the folklore of East and West, and proves that fortune is always a double-edged sword.
My Review: 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 were some really beautiful fairy tales. Overall, quite an adventure! (Though I warn: by gruesome, I mean gruesome!)
Discussion Questions: How did the author use folklore throughout the story to move along the plot?; What parts of history that were shared within the book were true? Fictional?; Throughout the book, stop and try to predict what you think is going to happen next then check your predictions as you read more.; As you read, make a list of all of the seafaring vocabulary that is used within The Vanishing Islands then illustrate each of the vocabulary words as they are used in the book.; Wolverton used Marco Polo’s written works throughout the book–what allusions to Polo’s text can you find in The Vanishing Island?
We Flagged: “The summer began with the grim warning that the wolves were running again. In Britannia, this was code. It meant that Her Majesty’s navy was in need of fresh bodies to replace all of the seamen lost during the year to disease, desertion, or battle. Crimping, they called it. Men and older boys kidnapped and forced to enlist, of the good of God, queen, and country. Britannia, after all, was just one of many nations fighting for nothing less than to control the world.
One boy who didn’t have to worry about being crimped was Bren Owens of Map, the dirtiest, noisiest, smelliest city in all of Britannia. (He had heard rotten things about London, too, but he’d never been there.) Bren was what they called spindly–tall for his age, but unsteady, like a chair you might be afraid to sit on. He had been born in Map because he’d had no choice in the matter.
But that didn’t mean he had to stay here. And now, too skinny for the wolves, he had been forced to take matters into his own hands.” (p. 9-10)
Author Guest Post:
“Be Careful What You Read, or Why Books Are Dangerous” by Barry Wolverton
Beginning in 1978, when Metrocenter mall opened near my home in Jackson, Miss., my family would go to the mall every Friday night. We would have dinner at one of the fine mall establishments, and then my mother would go clothes shopping, my brother would go nerd out at Radio Shack or Spencer’s, my father would go sit somewhere and smoke (you could do that then), and I would plop myself down in an aisle at Waldenbooks. I remember exactly how it felt to have that to look forward to, which is why Black’s Antique Books and Collectibles is Bren’s home away from home in The Vanishing Island. (Although the way I describe Black’s is more like I remembered Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, the ur-bookstore.)
But for a curious, receptive mind, books can do mischievous things. As I describe it in the book, “the bookstore was a blessing and a curse for [Bren]. Every few weeks seemed to bring in new adventure books, travelogues, and epic poems of war and conquest that were so popular these days. Tales from other lands and other times. For Bren, they offered proof that all things exotic and exciting lay anywhere but here.”
Books give Bren ideas. Ideas about places he’d rather be, things he’d rather be doing, possibilities that his current life doesn’t offer. Books also give him information. For instance, information about ships and the routines of their crew, so that an enterprising young man might figure out the best time to sneak aboard a ship and the best places to hide.
And it was undoubtedly in Black’s that Bren first found a copy of Travels by Marco Polo, the book that National Geographic described as “the founding adventure book of the modern world. Polo gave to the age of exploration that followed the marvels of the East, the strange customs, the fabulous riches, the tribes with gold teeth. It was a Book of Dreams, an incentive, a goad. Out of it came Columbus (whose own copy of the book was heavily annotated), Magellan, Vasco da Gama, and the rest of modern history.”
Wow, some book. Especially considering how much of it is considered dubious. Polo dictated his stories to a fiction writer named Rustichello while both were in prison during the Venice-Genoa war, and between Polo’s possible exaggerations and Rustichello’s flare for embellishment, we can be pretty sure Marco Polo didn’t really see a unicorn. (He may have seen a Sumatran rhino, though, which is still magical.)
Given all that, I hope you’ll appreciate why the Polo legend figures prominently in The Vanishing Island, without making light of the terrible cost of exploration and colonialism.
About the Author: Barry Wolverton is the author of Neversink. He has more than fifteen years’ experience creating books, documentary television scripts, and website content for international networks and publishers, including National Geographic, Scholastic.com, the Library of Congress, and the Discovery Networks. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee. You can visit him online at www.barrywolverton.com.
Read This If You Loved: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Emerald Atlas by John Stephens, The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson
Make sure to visit other stops on The Vanishing Island blog tour!
Tour information: http://www.walden.com/8039-2/
6/15/2015 Blue Stocking Thinking bluestockingthinking.
6/16/2015 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia hauntedorchid.
6/17/2015 Small Review smallreview.blogspot.com
6/18/2015 Maria’s Melange www.mariaselke.com/
6/19/2015 Unleashing Readers unleashingreaders.com
6/19/2015 The Hiding Spot thehidingspot.blogspot.com
6/22/2015 This Kid Reviews Books thiskidreviewsbooks.com
6/23/2015 Mundie Kids mundiekids.blogspot.
6/24/2015 Paige in Training pageintraining.
6/25/2015 Novel Novice novelnovice.com
**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for having us be part of the blog tour
and for providing copies for review and giveaway!**
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