The Little Island (book)

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The Little Island
CM LittleIsland.jpg
First edition
Author Margaret Wise Brown, Golden MacDonald, pseud.
Illustrator Leonard Weisgard
Country United States
Genre Children's picture book
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date

The Little Island is a book by Margaret Wise Brown under the pseudonym Golden MacDonald and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard. Released by Doubleday in 1946, it was the recipient of the Caldecott Medal for illustration in 1947.[1] It describes the four seasons as experienced by a little island. The book is lyrically written, an example being: "Winter came/ and the snow fell softly/ like a great quiet secret in the night/ cold and still."


Once there was a little island in the ocean. That little island changes as the seasons comes and go. The storm and the day and night change it. The island stood out up north. It was a popular place to be. Lots of gulls, lobsters, seals and many more animals come to this beautiful place.[2] One day a black dark kitten with blue eyes come to the island with his owners. This kitten is very insensitive; he does not care about others. In this story, the island and the kitten talk and fight, because the cat does not think the island is a part of the world but it really is. So the island says “Ask the underworld”. The underworld is the sea. The cat walks to the dark green underworld to see if he will get his answer. When the kitten doubts the island about this point, the island suggests asking a fish. The cat catches a fish and demands to know how the island is part of the bigger land. “Come with me” says the fish. 'I cannot swim', says the cat. 'Then you will have to take it on faith', says the fish. 'What is that - faith?' asks the cat. "Faith is to believe what I tell you about what you don't know", says the fish. "All lands are one land under the sea", says the fish. The cat realizes he has learned a great truth, and his eyes "were shining with the secret of it, and because he loved secrets, he let the fish go".[3] Then the cat leaves the island, and the island settles back into the timeless cycle of the seasons. The kitten learns from the island that the island is connected to all of the other land

Critical response[edit]

Golden MacDonald was a pen name for Margaret Wise Brown of Goodnight Moon fame. The text of this book captures the subtle rhythms of her appreciation for nature, and the connections that all beings and objects in nature have with one another. The book also won a Caldecott Medal for its shimmering and tingling watercolors. The images create a mood of the perpetual essence of nature, and our connections to one another through the blue-green and grey palettes used. The Little Island is one of the great masterpieces in achieving that remarkable accomplishment. The book covers the four seasons as they affect the little island and the plants and animals that visit the island. To show the on-going nature of the process, the book's time line expands beyond a single year.The island is described as being: 'A part of the world and a world of its own all surrounded by the bright blue sea. From the New York Times the little island children literature book is all about faith.[4] Having the kitten fish is an allusion to the famous Biblical reference of teaching a man to fish, rather than providing him with fish, and the kitten that comes from ashore learns a secret about the island and a lesion about fait.<[5]The connection to Donne is made in the context of the kitten visitor to the island. "May be I am an island too . . . a little fur Island in the air".[6] The connections run in all directions. The kitten gets the answer there, but cannot get firm proof. He just has to take the fish's word for it. This is an obvious allusion to the element of faith in people understanding of the spiritual nature of our connections to one another.Many animals need the little island to go through their annual cycle, such as the seals who raise their young on the island. Many of the insects and birds come from the mainland across the sea. The weather affects the sea, the island, and the mainland alike as do the tides. The story is strengthened by what children choose to read the book and have opportunities to share scientific facts, spiritual connections, and to explain the mutual dependency that occurs in nature.


  1. ^ American Library Association: Caldecott Medal Winners, 1938 - Present. URL accessed 27 May 2009.
  2. ^ Children’s literature:Publisher weekly. September29, 2013
  3. ^ “Welcome Back!” By: Roback, Dianne, Brown, Jennifer M., Bean, Joy, Zaleski
  4. ^ Jeff, Publishers Weekly, september29,2003
  5. ^ “The Little Island”. Book 3, 1991
  6. ^ "A Children's Version of 'No Man Is An Island' ".John Donne. April 16, 2001
Preceded by
The Rooster Crows
Caldecott Medal recipient
Succeeded by
White Snow, Bright Snow