A MOSTLY True Story from Iceland
Review posted September 13, 2023.
Barefoot Books, 2023. 36 pages.
Review written September 12, 2023, from a library book.
2023 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 Children's Nonfiction
This book is so much fun! It's a story that's true in all essential ways, told in picture book format. Since it's true, kids will need to go looking for it in the nonfiction section, and they'll be richly rewarded if they do. Teachers, this would make a great story to read to a class.
The author sets up the reader with a note on the title page:
Everything in this story is true,
except for one little thing.
See if you can spot it!
I will tell you what it is at the end.
With that note, he highlights the many extraordinary parts of the story. You think, surely he's fibbing! But no, he then tells you that part is true. (And, spoiler, the one falsehood ends up not being essential to the story.)
Here's how the story begins:
This is a story about my grandfather:
how he got stranded on a volcanic island,
was almost turned into barbecue
and found the most important moment in the world.
He continues with a jovial tone, speaking directly to the reader. He starts out by introducing Iceland and a favorite Icelandic story that every day has one moment filled with magic, and if you can find that magical moment and make a wish, it will come true.
Then he tells about a volcanic eruption off the coast of Iceland that caused a brand-new island to be formed.
For most people, this news was met with the following thought: Oh, how interesting. I will observe this new development from a safe distance, because, as everybody knows, volcanoes are very dangerous.
For my grandfather, however, this news meant only one thing:
"I must go there!"
So his grandfather and a friend got a ride from a fisherman and went to this newly-formed island. Their main rule for exploring the island was this:
If the bottom of your boots started melting,
you probably should be standing somewhere else!
(Which is, when I think about it, a good rule for life in general, not just when you're visiting an island that is more or less an active volcano.)
They have an amazing time exploring, and it's portrayed with glorious bright pictures. But after exploring all through the night, in the morning, the fisherman doesn't come back for them.
They don't have much food or drink and it gets cold at night. So they slept next to the volcano to keep warm, planning to take turns watching for lava. But they both fell asleep -- and in the morning the grandfather's glasses in his pocket had been melted into two pieces of glass and a twisted string of plastic.
So -- they have more adventures and their eventual escape from the island -- extraordinary and true -- is attributed to the magical wishing moment.
Five pages of back matter tell about Iceland, volcanoes, the island of Surtsey, and Norse gods. All along, we've got bright and beautiful pictures highlighting flowing lava and northern lights.
It all adds up to a marvelous tale that will rivet young elementary school students - and teach them, too.