The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Jenny Higgins and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

The Floating Island Review by Kathy Gelzer

By Elizabeth Haydon
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010

If you've got science-fantasy readers in your household, you will want to get this book. The Floating Island was my introduction to this genre, and I loved it. Written for young adults or "middle readers," it would be appropriate for most anyone from preteen on up, depending on your view of scary stuff. This is book one of a new science-fantasy trilogy. It is a 368-page hardback.

The story is told by Ven Polypheme, a member of the Nain race. Ven is the slightly absent-minded youngest member of a family of 13 children. He suffers from feelings of insecurity and a loose sense of direction in life. One warms immediately to this bit of a misfit. He is fifty years old, but "being fifty years old as a Nain is the same as being about twelve or thirteen in human years." His is a shipbuilding family, and unlike other Nains, Ven longs for adventure. He jumps at the chance to go for a "test-sail" on the most recently built craft. The voyage doesn't go at all as planned, and so begins the saga of Ven's many exciting adventures. Through journal entries and narrative, the reader will meet pirates, a mermaid, and castle residents. Ven has to choose his friends, escape danger, ascertain the truth, solve a puzzle, and remain hopeful through it all. He and a motley mess of companions come together and form a band of heroes with a common goal of simply helping each other selflessly. When he is confused and frightened, Ven recalls his father's wise words, and is steered in the right direction.

The Floating Island is gripping. I was caught up in the middle of the first page. The writing is top-notch. (The author is a seasoned science-fantasy writer.) The main characters, at least "the good guys," are very likeable. There is magic and palpable evil in the form of spirit wolves, skeleton hands reaching up from their graves, and dead bodies coming back to life. But as is usually the case in good fiction, good conquers evil. The book ends satisfactorily, with Ven reconnecting with his home and family as well as finding a way to satisfy his traveling urge.

At the end of the book, a Reader's Guide provides writing activities and discussion questions. There is also a website that offers free, high-quality "across the curriculum" printouts as well as questions to accompany each chapter of the book.

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2007