The Secret of Roan Inish (aka The Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry) by Rosalie K. Fry, 1995.

This is the book that the movie, The Secret of Roan Inish, is based upon. The movie tie-in book contains the text of the original book, which was called Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry (Child of the Western Isles), and pictures from the movie (the original book had black-and-white drawings). The movie follows the plot of the original book fairly well, although the location was changed to Ireland and some of the names were altered to reflect the change in location. This book, like the original, takes place in Scotland, and notations under the pictures call the characters by their original names.

Ten-year-old Fiona has been living in a big city ever since her family left the island of Ron Mor about four years earlier to seek new jobs and new opportunities. However, Fiona’s health has been poor, and her doctor has advised her to return to the seaside for the healthier atmosphere. The book begins with her journey to stay with her grandparents who still live close to Ron Mor. Fiona’s homecoming is tinged with both sadness and hope, as she reflects on the mysterious disappearance of her baby brother the day that her family left the island.

SecretRoanInishPicAlthough her brother apparently floated out to sea in his cradle after being left unattended on the beach, Fiona has the feeling that he is still alive somewhere close to the island. She learns that her cousin Rory also believes the local rumors that the boy is still on Ron Mor in the company of the seals that populate the area around the island. Moreover, Rory and other family members share Fiona’s longing to return to their old home and their family’s traditional way of life as fishermen. Fiona’s determination to find her younger brother and bring him and the rest of their family home to the island is touching and emphasizes the importance of family ties.

There is also an element of fantasy because of the story that Fiona’s grandfather tells about the family’s heritage, which helps explain their special connection to the sea and seals around the island. He and other members of the family believe that one of their ancestors was a selkie, a magical person who could change into a seal.  The story is gentle and upbeat, which makes a nice change from a lot of modern children’s books.  I think that it’s just plain magic.

Copies of the original book are expensive collectors’ items, but there is good news: it’s coming back into print in October (and on Kindle!), so if you’re nostalgic or just curious, you will be able to get a copy easily then!


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