Lost Children of the Far Islands

THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2014 by Emily Raabe
Jacket art copyright © 2014 by Manuel Šumberac

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Raabe, Emily.
Lost children of the far islands / Emily Raabe. — First edition.
p. cm.
Summary: After their mother falls mysteriously ill, eleven-year-old twins Gus and Leo and their mute younger sister, Ila, learn that they share their mother’s ability to transform into animals, and to defeat the evil King of the Black Lakes, they must harness this newfound power.
ISBN 978-0-375-87091-0 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-375-97091-7 (lib. bdg.) —
ISBN 978-0-307-97497-6 (ebook)
[1. Supernatural—Fiction. 2. Shapeshifting—Fiction. 3. Brothers and sisters—Fiction.
4. Family life—Maine—Fiction. 5. Selective mutism—Fiction.
6. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction. 7. Maine—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.R10033Los 2014

[Fic]—dc23
2013014768

Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

v3.1

For my family, who always believed
.

Out of the cradle of solitude
the rocking vessel carries you
out of the cold rain and stone jetties
the steepled firs lost in fog
out of the meadows of vetch and rue
the wilting buttercups—
it is never easy leaving the island

From “Leaving the Island,”
Alison Hawthorne Deming

•  MAINE  •

On May 23, exactly one month before Gustavia and Leomaris Brennan’s eleventh birthday, their mother became terribly, mysteriously ill.

At first, it was quite a wonderful day. For one thing, it was a Saturday, which meant sleeping in, at least for Leo. Gus could never sleep in, so she hopped out of bed at her usual time and ran down to the kitchen, where she found her father mixing batter for pancakes.

“Morning,” Gus said. Her dad murmured back as he peered into his mixing bowl. Ila said nothing, but she smiled up at Gus from her bowl of oatmeal, the only breakfast she would eat.

“Where’s Mom?” Gus asked.

“Not feeling well,” her father said lightly. “I figured I’d let her sleep. I don’t have to go into the lab today anyway. Let’s go wake up that brother of yours.”

Ila jumped up and grabbed her bowl of oatmeal off the table to follow them.

“Food at the table, Ila,” their father said. Ila gave him her
Please?
smile, and he shook his head in defeat. “OK, but two hands and no juice.”

Ila gave a happy little hop, which made Gus and her father laugh, and they progressed as a group to Leo’s room.

Gus shoved the door open. Leo was asleep. Leo loved to sleep almost as much as he loved to read books.

Except for their looks, Gus and Leo were as different as twins could be. Gus didn’t hate reading; she just didn’t have time for it. She was happiest when she was moving. She liked to run, and was the only fifth grader on the Girls A soccer team. But what she really loved was swimming. Gus swam on the school’s club team in the winter, and on the town team in the summer. She loved the smell of the water, the salt of the ocean, even the chlorine smell of the school pool. As soon as she got in the water, everything else faded. In the pool she was not the smart Brennan’s sister, or the sister of the Brennan who never spoke. She was simply the fastest swimmer.

Leo swam too, but while Gus was winning her races, he was usually ruining a library book by the edge of the pool. Their mother always said that if he could only figure out how to read in his sleep, Leo would be perfectly happy for the rest of his life. As it was, he usually settled
for reading himself to sleep, which he had clearly done the night before. He was lying on his side with his face mashed into the book that lay open on his pillow. His glasses were half on and half off, tilted at the crazy angle they had slipped to in the night.

“Leo!” Gus said.

“Humph.” Leo did not move.

“Dad’s making pancakes, Leo!”

At this, Leo opened one eye, dark brown, almost black, like Gus’s. Leo and Gus took after their mother, who was small and slender with glossy dark hair and coffee-colored eyes. Ila’s curly red hair and oddly colored eyes were her own. They appeared to be brown, the same dark shade as Leo’s and Gus’s, but a closer look revealed a starburst of incandescent green at the center of each one. Looking into Ila’s eyes was dizzying.

“Where’s Mom?” Leo asked, sitting up and sliding his glasses back onto his nose. His hair stood up so that he looked like a hedgehog in danger. His book thumped to the floor.

“Under the weather,” their father said. “You’re stuck with me.”

Leo grinned and pushed his hair away from his face, which resulted in it sticking even farther up in the air.

“Pancakes,” he said approvingly.

Their mother stayed in bed all day.

“She must be really sick,” Gus said to Leo. They were playing chess on an old wooden board on the living
room floor. Ila was alternating between looking at her favorite book, one about a frog and a toad that were best friends, and playing with her stuffed bear, dressing and undressing it and leading it on soundless adventures across the rug.

Gus and Leo’s sister was a little bit weird. Well, really, a lot weird. For one thing, she didn’t talk. It wasn’t that she was quiet or slow to respond, but that she didn’t talk at all. Ila was five years old, but she had never spoken a word. She was also what their mother called
sensitive
. Although Ila couldn’t—or wouldn’t—speak, she definitely could scream. When she was a baby, it seemed like anything would make her scream: being wrapped too tightly in her blankets, or being woken suddenly, or the one—and only—time Gus had been allowed to feed her from her bottle.

“It’s not you,” her mother had said as she plucked the writhing, shrieking baby from Gus’s arms. “The milk was too cold—that’s all, Gussy. Not you.”

Gus was hurt anyway. She had been waiting with huge excitement for the new baby. She and Leo were five when Ila arrived. Leo had taken a good look at her and wandered away, but Gus loved her from the start. When Ila had first peered up at her with her strange, beautiful eyes, Gus could barely breathe. Her own sister.

But the baby, it turned out, was not really that much fun. For one thing, she cried all the time. Anything abrupt—a light flicked on in a dark room, a siren going by, even the bang of a door closing—would make
Ila panic. Her small face would turn bright red, her eyes would squinch shut, and then she would start screaming.

“She’s just a little overwhelmed,” their father had said. But it was more than that. It was as if Ila had keener senses than the rest of them and was being bombarded by the world at its regular, human-made level. For instance, Gus was pretty sure Ila could see in the dark. She never bothered to turn the lights on in their room, not even at night. Gus liked to believe that her little sister, having lost so much by not speaking, had gained in other areas.

“She also has better hearing than any of us,” she pointed out to her father. “Remember when the Browns’ cat went missing and Ila was the one who found him in the closet in the spare room? Nobody else could hear him meowing.”

“That’s just because she’s so quiet herself,” her father said, but Gus thought he looked pleased at the thought of his youngest having gifts instead of merely the deficit of silence.

As Ila got older, her tantrums lessened. But Mrs. Destito, the nurse practitioner at the clinic, was concerned about the Brennans’ youngest child. Since it was difficult to bring Ila to her office, where the strange noises and bright lights could set her off, she had sent a young woman to their house to examine her. A behavior specialist, she called herself. She had a high-pitched voice that went up even higher when she spoke to Ila. It sounded like she was talking to a puppy.

“Such an interesting name,” the woman said in her puppy voice. “What in the world does it mean, I wonder?”

“It means
island
,” their mother said shortly.

“ ‘Island,’ ” the woman said. “How very, mmm, odd.”

No one said anything. What was there to say to such a rude comment?

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