Sunday, June 9, 2019

August Isle by Ali Standish

When her mom, a freelance photographer, gets a job in Argentina, and her dad has a big law case to prepare for, it is decided that Miranda, 12, would be sent to stay with her mother's old friend, Aunt Clare on August Isle, where her mother had spent her summers growing up. Miranda has always wondered why her mother threw away the postcards Aunt Clare periodically sent and now that she will be on August Isle, she is determined to find out. And then maybe she can figure out why her mother suddenly began to distance herself from Miranda a few years ago.

Miranda had met Aunt Clare and her daughter Sammy four years ago, and the two girls quickly bond again once Miranda arrives on August Isle. Aunt Clare has signed them up for sailing lessons every morning, not knowing that Miranda is deathly afraid of water. And that's where she meets Caleb, who at first makes fun of Miranda for her fear, but soon she, Sammy and Caleb are fast friends.

Pretty soon, mysteries are uncovered. First, the three discover an old abandoned house and Miranda is dared to go in. Which she does, but gets caught by an elderly man who is now living there. As punishment for breaking and entering, the three friends have to spend afternoons helping Mr. Taylor unpack his many books, acquired on a sailing trip around the world and writing down the  stories he collected from different people and places.

They discover the second mystery while walking down the street. There, carved into the sidewalk cement are three names - Clare, Beth, Ben. They know Clare is Sammy's mother, Beth is Miranda's mother, but who is Ben and why have they never heard of him?

The third mystery is who is in the lighthouse on Keeper's Island across the water from August Isle. Legend has it that it's haunted, but someone is definitely there at night.

While these are the main threads of the story, like summer days, there are other things going on as well. There are the turtle eggs that are getting ready to hatch and be gently guided to the ocean; there are problems between Caleb's parents at home; and my favorite is Miranda learning to bake pies with Aunt Clare's help, something she had always wanted to do with her mother.

I've always loved books set in the summer, so August Isle was right up my alley. I particularly liked the companionable way the three kids hung out together, getting ice cream after sailing lessons, and sitting under an old tree eating it, and their secret afternoon visits to Mr. Taylor (this part is never creepy, there is a housekeeper named Betsy always present). I also like how kind the young sailing instructor was about Miranda's fear of water, letting her do it all at her own pace. This is the kind of book my 11-year-old self would have loved to read during the summer when I could whatever I wanted (confession - I still look forward to reading exactly this kind of summer book).

I enjoyed watching the mysteries get solved, even though parts of them were very sad, but I really liked Miranda's resolve that from now on she is going to be "Miranda - brave and bold," facing her fears and learning to speak up for herself, even though sometimes it was really hard. Sammy, who is part Indian, part white, has always felt too white in India and too Indian in America, struggles to come to terms with her identity, even though she has always being proud of her Indian heritage.

On the whole, August Isle was a wonderfully inspiring book to read and although Standish has used the usual tropes of family, identity, overcoming fear, and finding courage, she's managed to give them all a new look. Young readers are sure to count Miranda, Sammy, and Caleb among their book friends at summer's end.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday offerings, now being carried on by Greg at Always in the Middle.


  1. This sounds like a wonderful story! Sailing, mysteries, friendship, and a beautiful cover have inspired me to add this one to my own 'summer' reading list. Thanks for sharing this one for MMGM.

  2. What an intriguing mystery with many facets. The characters also sound like they make a great threesome. And, I love stories on islands. What a fun read. Will check it out.

  3. I like mysteries too and this sounds full of them. I'll have to try to read it this summer too.

  4. This does sound like a perfect summer read. I will try to check it out. Thanks for telling me about it.

  5. What an intriguing set of mysteries! I too love summer type books and will have to squeeze this one in over the next three months. Thanks for your well crafted thoughts.

  6. This sounds like such a lovely book to read - sailing lessons, new friendships, mysteries, and turtle eggs. I loved how you drew out the themes and threads of the story.


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