vanishing-islandReader Engagement Project:

The middle-grade adventure, The Vanishing Island by Barry Wolverton (Walden Pond Press), opens in 1599, in the Age of Discovery in Europe. But for Bren Owen, growing up in the small town of Map on the coast of Britannia has meant anything but discovery or adventure. Then Bren meets a dying sailor, who gives him a strange gift that hides a hidden message. Cracking the code could lead Bren to a fabled lost treasure that could change his life forever, and that of his widowed father. Before long, Bren is in greater danger than he ever imagined and will need the help of an unusual friend named Mouse to survive.

Fast-paced and entertaining, this fine trilogy opener will keep both fantasy and historical-fiction buffs turning the pages. —Kirkus Reviews



To deepen the reader’s engagement with this Age of Discovery novel, we present you with a series of activities and event ideas that can be:

-Incorporated into classroom lessons,
-Serve as programming at a library or bookstore,
-Used with a book club, or
-Experienced individually by a curious reader.

Informational reading, geometry, social studies, and science are imbedded into these hands-on learning activities designed for readers ages 8-12.  CCSS Alignments included!

Activity 1: Mapping the Albatross
The majority of the action of the novel takes place onboard a ship in 1599.  The reader comes to know the intricacies of the Albatross as the 12-year-old novice Bren Owen does.  Readers will use informational text features to map their growing knowledge of the vessel and the story.

Activity 2: Notable Knots
On board, knowing the right knot can save a sail or the ship.  Through hands-on learning with step-by-step instructions, readers use both the text and the illustrations to learn this sailor’s skill.

Activity 3: Battle at Sea
A sea battle in the book is complicated by the appearance of an impenetrable, magical fog.  Readers will use their powers of prediction, geometry and deductive reasoning to fight their now invisible foe.

Activity 4: Navigating with a Needle
Either the battle or a mysterious wish fulfilled sends the Albatross wildly off course.  Bren, now assigned as the Navigator’s apprentice, must learn the science of measuring longitude, latitude, speed, and distance.  In a physical science activity, readers magnetize a needle and float it in water to find North and learn about the magnetic poles.

Activity 5: The Ploughman and the Cloud Maiden
The unspoken mission of the Albatross’ voyage is to find an island that no sailor or navigator has found in 300 years.  Solving the puzzle of Vanishing Island’s location will involve a Chinese legend and the ability to read Chinese characters.  In this activity, readers can practice the brush strokes that make up the key characters of the legend and build an appreciation of China’s rich written language.

Activity 6: The Order of the Black Tulip
Entry into the secretive Order of the Black Tulip is only bestowed upon the most adventurous of seamen and explorers, those who are open to the world’s mysteries.  Any reader who has completed these activities is eligible for the elite order.  This activity sheet offers multiple images of The Order of the Black Tulip tattoo and instructions on how to print the sheet using special decal paper.

Engagement / Programming Tool:

View, Download & Print Vanishing Island Activity Kit

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Best Users:

Public Children’s Librarians, School Librarians, Booksellers, Grades 03-09

Best Audience:

Children Grades 3-6

More on the Book:

The Vanishing Island
by Barry Wolverton
ISBN-13: 9780062221902
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Series: Chronicles of the Black Tulip Series, #1
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years


  1. Sounds like a read my students would enjoy

    • It is SO compelling! I read in a flash!


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