Introducing Nim's Island

Earlier this year a friend introduced me to Nim's Island by Wendy Orr. I was a bit surprised it had taken me so long to find it, but I couldn't be happier to dive into the world of Nim, her animal friends and Alex - the author she meets on the internet. It's a great book to explore with Grade 5 and 6 students - filled with lots of questions, activity possibilities and ideas to explore.

Introducing Nim's Island - A blog post taking a look at the novel by Wendy Orr


At its heart, Nim's Island is an adventure story. Nim and her father live on an island in the middle of the ocean, relying on their own growing and building skills and occasional supply ships to be self-sufficient. Nim finds herself alone on the island after her father runs into misfortune during a research trip away on his boat. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but a series of misadventures means that she has to dig deep into her skills and knowledge to keep things running and to sustain the lifestyle she and her father have so carefully created for themselves. 

While she's dealing with these issues she 'meets' the author Alex Rover through email - Alex is researching for her new book and Nim reaches out to a voice which might be able to help her. This leads to a whole new set of adventures - especially when Nim and Alex misunderstand each other.

Nim's Island would work great as part of a study of the adventure genre. Students can explore excerpts of classic books like Swiss Family Robinson, the Three Musketeers or The Jungle Book, look at more recent books to compare and contrast, examine how adventure can meet other genres like fantasy or science fiction and read (or try to write) choose your own adventure books. Adventure stories allow for interesting explorations of plot and character as well as creating suspense - interesting to explore in both reading and writing. 


From the beginning of the book, we meet Nim's friends - who are all animals. Nim's animal friends are obviously loved and part of her life, and she understands them thoroughly, but she admits that it would be nice to have some non-animal friends as well. The animals assist Nim and her father when they need them - especially with communication - which leads to questions about how animals have helped people with communication in the real world.

The animals in Nim's Island allow for some great, in-depth research. What are these animals? Where in the world do they live? What habitat do they need? What makes them special? Why would the author choose them for the book? 

Big Questions

Nim's Island is filled with some great ideas and questions to think over, discuss and write about. This allows for a more in-depth look at the book, allowing students to see the book from different perspectives. 

Some of the questions in the book include whether Nim's father should have left Nim on her own in the first place? Can animals be friends? Do authors owe information about themselves to their readers? Should we take more adventures? How can we be responsible tourists? 

The Movie

Nim's Island was turned into a movie which is always great for comparisons. Which one is better? What changes were made? Why were they made? What impact do the changes make? Looking at how stories can be told in different mediums is a great insight into why writers make the choices they make. Students can think about how they might have retold the story if they'd been asked to create a movie or even act out one of the important scenes from the book.

I highly recommend Nim's Island as a classroom resource - either as a whole class novel, a read-aloud, as a small group or as part of a reader's workshop program. It's a truly engaging and thought-provoking book - perfect for digging into deeper!