The Island

by John Heffernan and illustrated by Peter Sheehan

(Omnibus Scholastic Australia Malvern South Australia 2005)

peace with ourselves-peace with each other-peace with the environment

recommended but unavailable - maybe a copy in your local library


A small child, unable to see, was befriended by a sea creature, those with sight only feared. They enviously watched from the shore as the child fearlessly laughed and played with his new friend. This unusual story cleverly explored the meaning of happiness and how to create it. It is an engaging and thought-provoking story for all ages to enjoy and share together and it contains many peace-building elements:

  • happy ending  

  •     everyone winning

  •     nonviolent resolution

  • imaginative and creative

  • challenges existing stereotyping

  • faith and hope

  • peace with the environment

  • finding personal peace

  • element that supports the idea that peace is possible

The people of the island captured the creature hoping it would magically create happiness for them as it did for the child. But the special magic could not be sustained and neither could the creature. It needed to be set free and return to the ocean otherwise it would not survive.

This story leaves any reader questioning their own understandings about happiness. The ending is definitely a happy one for the child and his friend. But the people of the island only occasionally heard laughter and imagined the child and his friend might be near as they waited in hope upon the shore for their return.

Critical questions to explore with children 

  • What was the child able to do?
  • Did the people of the island value the child's treasures? 
  • Why was the child not fearful of the creature when he first encountered it?
  • What was the strange sound the people had never heard before?
  • Why did the people choose to capture the creature?
  • Why did the child choose to help the creature escape and return to the ocean?
  • Does the story have a happy win-win ending for everyone in the story?

Creative questions to explore with children

  • Why do you think the boy could not see? What might have happened to him?
  • Why do you think the people on the island rarely smiled and never laughed?
  • Do you think the child was fearful of anything at all?
  • Do you think the child ever wanted to return to the island?
  • What things do you treasure and do they make you feel happy?
  • How else could the story have ended with win-win happening for everyone?

Teaching and Learning for Peace Foundation January 2007

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