Review of Stories of the Islands

Stories of the Islands Stories of the Islands
by Clar Angkasa; illus. by the author
Intermediate, Middle School    Holiday    176 pp.
10/23    9780823449781    $22.99
Paper ed.  9780823455737    $14.99
e-book ed.  9780823457281    $11.99

These graphic-format retellings of three Indonesian folktales steer their female protagonists away from traditional “superficial tropes” and render them as empowered, intelligent characters who determine their own fates. A young woman trapped in a snail’s shell by her jealous younger sister is finally freed when she seeks to help someone other than herself in “Keong Mas.” A newly blended family brings two girls together as sisters in “Bawang Merah Bawang Putih.” Though tragedy unexpectedly strikes, the sisters keep their hearts open and forge a path forward together: “because Merah had Putih and Putih had Merah. And that was enough.” A medicine woman in “Timun Mas” builds a life for herself despite opposing societal norms and expectations. When a giant knocks on her door demanding that she surrender what she deems most precious, she refuses to accept defeat. The panel illustrations feature deep purples, earthy greens, and rich golden hues. Angkasa’s expressive art transports readers through the rolling waves, flowing rivers, and lush forests that make up the over seventeen thousand Indonesian islands. Brief prose retellings of the original stories are provided for reference and comparison; an author’s note makes personal connections.

From the November/December 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Gabi Kim Huesca

Gabi Kim Huesca is a librarian at the Fairfax County Public Library. She holds a master's degree in library and information science from the University of Maryland.

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