‘Island of the Invisible Being: Benjua’s Story’ is a legend from the Marshall Islands written by Madelain Westermann and illustrated by Erin Johnson.
Despite being an obedient and hard-working child, Emon can’t please her parents. No matter what she does and how hard she tries, they seem to be never happy with her.
But one day they decide to take her to the Island of the Invisible Being to have a picnic. When Emon goes gather wood for the fire, her mother and father suddenly take off in a canoe, leaving the girl behind in a stranded place. Realizing the betrayal of her parents, Emon knows that no one will help her and that she can count only on herself.
Children’s books need to tick off a lot of boxes in order to be considered worthy of the youngsters’ time. They must capture attention, tell a compelling story, carry a valuable lesson, and be pleasant on the eye. It may appear easy, but it’s a great art. If I tell you that Madelain Westermann’s ‘Island of the Invisible Being’ ticks off all these boxes (and more), I’m certain you will be interested.
It’s quite difficult to find a book Pacific children could relate to. Literature doesn’t like diversity or colour, which is regrettable and sad. A Samoan, Papuan, Chuukese child is more likely to spot a title about a strange creature from another planet than one about his or her fellow Islander. That’s why Emon’s story stands out from the crowd. The island setting, the Marshallese characters, and the local culture make it a fascinating read, I dare say not only for children from the Blue Continent.
As soon as you start reading, you are transported to the beautiful world of the Pacific Islands. Beautiful, enchanting, and a little mysterious. Young Emon introduces you to Marshallese traditions: you discover the art of basket weaving, learn what Islanders’ favourite food is, find out what was used to navigate the great Pacific Ocean. The Marshallese way of living is subtly entwined into the tale, leaving you curious to know more.
That curiosity is further aroused by stunning illustrations, which are a real delight for the eyes. Vibrant colours and an original way of portraying every scene bring the words to life, unfolding before you the magic of the islands. It is impossible not to look at the pages. The azure sky, dark blue waters, lush green vegetation make you literally stare at the pictures in awe.
Now, a good children’s book usually comes with a moral. The moral of this story is a great lesson and reminder for us all, regardless of age. Because how often do we let our fears overpower us? How often do we give up? How often do we take other people for granted? Each of the characters teaches us something different: Emon – that you have to be strong and always endure hardships with fortitude; her family – that selfishness, greed, and unkindness never pay; the Invisible Being – that justice is always served. Those are the truths that every child should know and every adult should remember.
Madelain Westermann and Erin Johnson have created a gem. It’s an utterly beautiful book with a valuable story that deserves its place in every home! Kids will absolutely love it. And so will their parents.