Sunday, July 23, 2023

Book cover: "Dangerous Island"

Mom loved this book when she was a kid, and she shared it with me when I was a kid, so it's my go-to example of a book that bonded us because we both enjoyed it in our childhood. From some of the comments on Amazon and Goodreads, it's clear that we're far from the only family in which this book was beloved across generations.

  • Title: Dangerous Island
  • Author: Helen Mather-Smith Mindlin. There's very little on the internet about her, but the dust jacket gives us some background: She was "born in Kansas City, Missouri, but spent most of her life in California, Hawaii and Florida, with some time in New York, Chicago and St. Louis. At present, she lives in Boca Raton, Florida. She attended school in both Illinois and California." Additionally, "she has written scenarios in Hollywood and feature articles for King Features Syndicate and for the Los Angeles Times Magazine Section. Her interests include not only writing but also yachting, fishing, dogs, wild animals and playing the accordion." The only other books I found her associated with were Inside Our Earth, Strange Animals (illustrated by Charles Mather-Smith) and 1958's Volcano Trap, which features the same characters as Dangerous Island and is a followup adventure, presumably involving a volcano.
  • Illustrator: Manning de V. Lee (1894-1980). His full name was Manning de Villeneuve Lee. He was born in Summerville, South Carolina, and died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There's a lot of information about his life on the Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists.
  • Publication date: 1956
  • Publisher: Dodd, Mead & Company. (This is the Weekly Reader Children's Book Club edition.)
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Pages: 178
  • Dust jacket price: $2.75
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "A delightful combination of high adventure and fantasy that might almost be true. When the mooring on their raft breaks loose from the Jersey shore, three young children, two boys and a girl, are carried out to sea and become castaways on the most amazing island. ... A most satisfactory book."
  • Author's dedication: To my son.
  • First sentence: It had been terribly hot in Philadelphia and as it was just the beginning of summer, with even worse weather ahead, Mr. and Mrs. Warren had decided that Frank and Dorothy should be in a cooler spot.
  • Last sentence: In fact, some people believed there never had been a Rock Island!
  • Paragraph from the middle: As the children walked back to the cave, they noticed their Bath Tub rock was not longer there, either. It had been at the ocean's edge and now, it too, was completely covered with water. This seemed to be another warning that they were positively sinking, but the fact that it was still a clear day, with no fog anywhere in sight, gave them fresh hope of rescue.
  • Rating on Goodreads: 4.21 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt #1: In 2020, Heidi wrote: "My fourth grade teacher read this book to the class (1957). We were all spellbound and loved every minute. Over the years I remembered the story but couldn't remember the title properly. Another librarian helped me to rediscover the book and I was delighted to have been able to obtain a decent, used copy."
  • Goodreads review excerpt #2: In 2011, Dave wrote: "I read this abomination under duress, back in '76 -- and I hold a grudge against my teacher to this very day. Tearing a fourth-grader away from his Poe, his Tolkien, his Stoker (and his totally cool books on dinosaurs, Indians, knights, rocks, plants, folktales, ghost stories, etc.) and forcing him to read this kind of dross is child abuse."
  • Rating on Amazon: 4.9 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt #1: In 2020, "Kindle Customer" wrote: "This was one of my mom's favorite books as a child, she even signed it in 5th grade in the 1950s. Thirty years later, I read Dangerous Island and fell in love with the adventure, and also added my elementary aged signature to the front page. Last month, I read it to my 8 year old — he's now added his signature under ours. 
  • Amazon review excerpt #2: In 2011, W. Thompson wrote: "I was telling my kids about this book and how my mom read it to me every summer from the time I was five until I was able to read it myself (it was her copy when she was a child and her mom read it to her). ... I have since read this book several times to my children. A wonderful story that I hope my children will someday read to their kids. Too bad Disney never made this into a movie."
  • Another mention: In a 2020 column praising mail-order book clubs for the Star Tribune in Minnesota, W. Scott Olsen recalls that Dangerous Island "was perfect for a young Midwestern boy. ... I am sure this book is responsible for my love of sailing stories and the Coast Guard. This book was Indiana Jones long before Indiana Jones. A trio of friends in danger? A bit of Harry Potter there. This book made me a reader." 

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