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Children's Fiction Siblings

The Islands of Elsewhere

by (author) Heather Fawcett

Penguin Young Readers Group
Initial publish date
Jun 2023
Siblings, General, Mysteries & Detective Stories
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2023
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 8 to 12
  • Grade: 3 to 7


With hints of magic and plenty of adventure, this seaside story of siblings on a hunt for treasure is perfect for fans of The Penderwicks and The Vanderbeekers.

Not many kids have an island in their backyard, but suddenly, the Snolly sisters have three. They’re staying at Granddaddy’s seaside property for the summer, which includes the mysterious Fairy Islands: Fairy, Little Fairy, and Ghost. The people in Misty Cove call them “in-between places,” and say they’re full of magic—a magic that gets inside you.

But ten-year-old Bee Snolly doesn’t believe in magic—she just wants to help her ill Granddaddy. And if she and her sisters can unravel the mystery of the Fairy Islands in time, they may discover a long-buried secret that could help them all.

About the author

Heather Fawcett is also the author of the middle grade novels The School Between Winter and Fairyland, The Language of Ghosts, and Ember and the Ice Dragons as well as the young adult Even the Darkest Stars series. She has a master’s degree in English literature and has worked as an archaeologist, photographer, technical writer, and backstage assistant for a Shakespearean theater festival. She lives on Vancouver Island, Canada. Heather can be found online at

Heather Fawcett's profile page

Excerpt: The Islands of Elsewhere (by (author) Heather Fawcett)

Chapter 1
The Sometimes Island
“Here we are,” Mom said, turning the car off.

In the front seat, Hattie stuck her head out the window, her eyes wide. “Are you serious?”

This is Granddaddy’s house?” Bee demanded.

“Oh no, of course not,” Mom said. “Your brother and I are going there now. This house belongs to a wicked witch who eats little girls for dinner. Out you go!”

“Mom!” the Snolly sisters groaned in unison. Theodore, their baby brother, gave a snort of laughter from his car seat, as if delighted by the idea of a sister-eating witch.

Bee poked his tummy teasingly. Dore giggled and waved his tiny fists, which Bee carefully avoided. Dore always seemed to have something unpleasant in his fists—sometimes a sticky glob of food saved from his last meal; other times a dead worm or beetle. Once, he’d had an actual frog, still alive and springy, which had leaped into Hattie’s hair as soon as he opened his hand. None of the other Snollys could figure out where he’d found it. They hadn’t known they had frogs in their dull suburb, which was mostly concrete and shopping malls.

“Well, three girls are a handful, you know,” Mom said with a sigh. “Your granddaddy will miss you. Not too much, of course—abandoning you to the witch was his idea.”


“All right, all right.” Her hand hovered over the unlock button, but she didn’t press it. “Now, remember what I told you. Your grandfather may be a little different, but he’s still your grandfather. The illness is in the early stages, and it’s slow.”

The Snolly sisters nodded. Bee didn’t know why Mom kept saying that Granddaddy’s illness was “slow,” as if that was supposed to make them feel better.

“What are the three rules?” Mom said.

“Don’t argue with Granddaddy if he says something wrong,” Hattie said.

“Don’t be too—noisy?” Plum said. Mom nodded.

“Good luck with that,” Bee muttered. Plum was like a four-foot-tall tornado. Mom looked at her, and Bee sighed. “If Granddaddy gets confused and needs help, come and get you.”

Mom nodded again. She unlocked the doors, and the Snolly sisters piled out. Literally. Hattie tripped on Mab, their one-eyed black cat, and tumbled onto the ground. Then Plum was so excited for the long drive to be over that she tried to jump past Bee and ended up on top of both sisters.

“Girls!” Mom said. This was one of Mom’s favorite words. Sometimes it simply meant Come here, sometimes it meant You’re making me laugh so hard, my side hurts, and other times it meant If you keep that up, I’m going to tear out my hair. This time it was a combination of the first and third meanings, Bee thought.

“Get off,” Bee grumbled, giving Plum a shove. Bee was a whole two years older than Plum, but she was short for a ten-year-old and Plum was tall for an eight-year-old, so they were almost the same size. Additionally, Plum was bony and seemed to have more knees and elbows than most people.

Bee hitched up her green backpack, which she carried with her everywhere she went, and helped Mom unload the car. The house itself wasn’t what had astonished her, though it was a pretty house, small and seashell-white with lots of windows and a somewhat overgrown garden. It was the where of the house that was the astonishing thing: It sat on the edge of a low bluff overlooking the sea.

And, oh, the sea! It stretched out and out, blue and green and black all together, wrinkled with waves. A thick fog hovered offshore, stretching its tendrils out like an octopus, and the wind was cool and salty. Below Granddaddy’s house was a perfect beach that went on and on until it faded into the fog.

“Mom!” Hattie exclaimed. “Granddaddy has a beach in his backyard. In his backyard!”

“What if the waves hit his house?” Plum said.

“They don’t,” Bee said. “You can tell by the driftwood down there—see? That’s as high as the tide gets.”

Plum looked disappointed. Knowing her, she probably liked the idea of being woken up in the night by waves splashing through her window.

“Look!” Hattie said. “There’s an island out there.”

So there was. The fog had parted, revealing a dark mound of trees and rocky banks poking up out of the water. The fog closed up again before Bee could get a good look, like a curtain drawing across a window.

“That’s Fairy Island,” Mom said, bending over the bags in the trunk. Her dark hair was spilling out of its bun. “It’s part of your grandfather’s property.”

Plum’s eyes bulged. “Fairy Island?”

“Yes—bit of a silly name, if you ask me. It’s not even an island. Well, sometimes it is.”

“Granddaddy owns an island?” Hattie demanded. “Is he a millionaire?”

“Does it have coconut trees?” Plum said.

“You can’t have a sometimes island,” Bee said. “That’s impossible. Things are either islands or they’re not.”

“Yes, no, no, and yes, you can,” Mom said, tucking her hair behind her ear. “It’s an island at high tide. At low tide, it’s connected to the cove. And I’m afraid it’s not worth much, Hattie. It’s protected by law, which means you can’t build anything on it.”

Bee and Hattie exchanged looks. A beach in their backyard, and a mysterious island all to themselves? Things just kept getting better and better.

“Did you play on the island when you were little, Mommy?” Plum said, pushing up her hairband, which was part of her dinosaur costume—it had a row of papier-​mâché horns glued onto it. Plum wore Halloween costumes all year, most handmade by Mom or scavenged at local thrift stores, and the dinosaur costume was one of her favorites. In addition to the hairband, it consisted of a green vest that zipped at the front and had a row of stegosaurus scales made of felt and wire running down the back, and a long green tail stuffed with cotton batting.

“No, I never really liked going there when I was a girl.” Mom paused, and a frown passed over her face. “I don’t remember why—isn’t that strange? I suppose it was because I preferred to stay inside with my books. That’s enough chattering, now—Hattie, hon, give me a hand with this stuff.”

Hattie picked up a suitcase and a bag. Bee picked up Mab, who had wandered off to sniff the garden. “You’ll have to be careful here,” she told the cat. “You can’t wander far. Mom says there are wolves and bears in Misty Cove.”

Mab regarded her with an equal measure of calm and pity in her big green eye, as if to say, Wolves and bears would gobble you up easy, but they’re no match for ME. Bee, on the other hand, wasn’t calm at all—she was bubbling with excitement. Like the others, she’d been looking forward to spending half the summer at Granddaddy’s for months, ever since Mom had started making plans. They hadn’t been to Granddaddy’s house since Bee was little, too little to remember—it was far away, a long drive that included an expensive ferry, so Granddaddy usually flew to Vancouver to visit them.

Plum did cartwheels up the lawn, which was bumpy from the roots of two towering cedars. “Where does dew come from, Mommy?” she said between leaps.

“Dew?” Mom paused to adjust one of the bags slung over her shoulder. “That’s what comes out of clouds when they sneeze. I thought you knew that.”

“Mom,” Hattie groaned.

“I know,” Mom said, shaking her head sadly. “There is no darkness but ignorance, as Shakespeare says. I must do a better job of teaching you girls the ways of the world. Imagine not knowing where dew comes from, at your age!”

Plum turned to Hattie. “Do clouds really sneeze?”

“Of course,” Mom answered. “You think I would lie to my own offspring? Perish the thought!”

“They don’t sneeze,” Hattie said.

“Where does it come from, then?”

“I don’t know. Ask Bee.”

Bee knew that dew came from water in the air, because she’d read it in one of her science books. But Mom had already given her a wink, and she had winked back, so she said loudly, “Gosh, look at all this dew. The clouds in Misty Cove must have a cold.”

Hattie groaned even louder. Mom smiled, but then her expression grew serious. “Don’t forget, girls: Your grandfather is still your grandfather. If he misplaces a memory once in a while, it doesn’t change that.”

“You said that, Mommy,” Plum said.

“Like two minutes ago,” Hattie said.

Mom let out a slow breath. “It’s important, so I’m saying it again.”

Plum nodded solemnly. Bee felt a knot tighten in her stomach, a knot that had been there since Mom had told them that Granddaddy was sick.

The door of the house flew open, and there stood Granddaddy. His gray hair was as messy as Bee remembered, and he was wearing an apron that said Cookies Are a Food Group. “Alice! Children! Good grief, it’s like having a traveling circus turn up at your door. I’m sorry, but you won’t all fit in the cottage—you’ll have to find a hotel.”

Mom laughed and hugged him. Despite his gruff voice, Bee could see that Granddaddy’s eyes were warm. He looked and sounded like the same old Granddaddy, and Bee felt relief wash over her.

Like the other Snolly children, Bee had once been afraid of Granddaddy. He was tall and round and quiet, a large shape in the corner at family gatherings, gazing out from beneath his joined-up eyebrows. He taught junior-high science before he retired, though Bee could never picture him in a classroom full of kids, looming over them all. Then one day at the park near their house, Bee had been stung by a wasp (though afterward, whenever any of the Snollys told the story, the wasp became a bee). Granddaddy had found her sobbing by the pond, and after quietly examining the wound, he had wandered off to the garden part of the park and returned with a handful of different flowers. These he crumbled in his palm with a little water and applied to the sting while Bee watched in amazement. The pain had lessened right away. Later that day, he had shown her his collection of pressed leaves and flowers from around the world, and had taught her how to press her own.

Granddaddy hugged the sisters first, then gave Dore a kiss. Dore grinned enormously and held out his fist. Before the Snolly sisters could shout a warning, Granddaddy opened his hand, and Dore dropped a large, hairy spider onto it.

“Ah,” Granddaddy said. Bee couldn’t help admiring how quickly he hid his shock. The spider had alarmingly thick legs. “Thank you, Theodore. But I think we should set this little fellow free, don’t you? I’m sure he’ll enjoy his new home.”

He bent down and put his hand against the lawn. The poor spider staggered about for a moment and then wandered off in the direction of the roses, swaying as if it had been through a washing machine.

Granddaddy ushered them into the house. They found themselves in a living room with a lot of old, squashy furniture and a wall of windows facing the sea. The sound of the surf filled the room, and Bee sighed happily. It was like being inside a big, cozy seashell.

Next to the living room was a kitchen. The counter was entirely filled with chocolate chip cookies in a variety of shapes and sizes, cooling on racks. Plum’s eyes went beady, but Granddaddy deftly blocked her way.

“Not yet,” he said. “Let’s help your mother with the bags first. Then I’ll need you all to do a taste test. I think I’ve made a breakthrough in my experiments.”

The sisters grinned at one another. For as long as they could remember, Granddaddy had been on a quest to discover the world’s best chocolate chip cookie recipe. Whenever he visited their apartment, he made batch after batch with slightly different ingredients, insisting that the Snolly sisters provide him with detailed reviews. With some exceptions, they were all delicious (one key exception being the peppermint-and-peanut-butter-­flavored batch of two summers ago, which had made Plum sick).

“We liked your last recipe, Granddaddy,” Hattie said. Bee nodded. When Granddaddy had visited for Christmas, he had baked a batch with cotton-candy icing. They’d been so good, it had been as if an enchanted candy shop had been crammed into each cookie.

Bee glanced at Hattie. She could tell from the smile on Hattie’s face that she was thinking the same thing—clearly, Mom had been exaggerating. Granddaddy couldn’t possibly be that ill.
“Why don’t you girls put your things away?” Granddaddy said. “I don’t have enough bedrooms for everyone, so one of you will have to be out in the bunkie.”

“What’s a bunkie?” Plum asked.

“It’s like a very small house,” Mom said. “Very small. They’re usually just for sleeping in.”

“Oh, wow!” Bee raced to the window. Sure enough, at the edge of the sloping lawn beside a path down to the beach was a little one-room building. The roof was covered in moss, and if not for the door and the windows, it would have looked like a shed. An ancient apple tree leaned over it, its branches all pointed away from the sea like a person slowly falling over backward. It was wonderful, Bee thought: a little house just for one person.

“I don’t know, Dad,” Mom said to Granddaddy. “That thing looks like it’s falling apart. Maybe the girls can share a room.”

“Nooo,” Bee and Hattie moaned in unison.

“It’s perfectly safe,” Granddaddy said. “Believe it or not, my parents used to live there. This property has been in the family for generations.” He gazed at the bunkie in a way that made Bee think he was seeing something she couldn’t.

“Mom can pick a number between one and a hundred,” Bee suggested. “Whoever’s guess is the closest gets the bunkie.”

“I think the oldest should get the bunkie,” Hattie grumbled. “I’m the only mature one around here. I mean, I’m almost a junior high schooler.”

Bee rolled her eyes. “You two can guess first,” she added virtuously. Maybe a little too virtuously, for Hattie gave her a suspicious look.

“Fourteen!” Plum said.

“Thirty-three,” Hattie said.

Bee grinned. “Thirty-four.”

“Well done, Bee,” Mom said. “The number was seventy. You win.”

Hattie glared at her. “You cheated!”

“It’s not cheating,” Bee said. “It’s strategy. You’d think you’d know all about that, being the only mature one around here.”

Hattie threw a sofa cushion at her.

“What is that smell?” Mom said.

Suddenly, they were all noticing it. “Smoke!” Hattie exclaimed.

Mom dropped her suitcase with a clatter and ran into the kitchen. She yanked opened the oven and all Bee could see were bright yellow flames, though when Mom reached inside and pulled a tray out, she realized the flames weren’t actually that big after all. It was a tray of cookies, or what used to be cookies—two were burning, and the rest were black and smoking.

Mom gave a startled cry. She dropped the tray into the sink and turned the water on, and the kitchen filled with the hiss of steam.

“How long has the oven been on?” Mom said in a voice that was more high-pitched than usual. “Cookies don’t burn like that in a few minutes.”

“It’s not on,” Granddaddy said. He was standing in the doorway, frowning, but his expression was strange, as if he was trying to peer through clouds.

Mom didn’t reply. She just reached out and turned the oven off. The sudden mechanical beep made Bee jump. Don’t argue with Granddaddy, she heard Mom’s voice saying in her head. Mom wasn’t arguing, even though they all knew Granddaddy had left the oven on.

Bee’s heart was still thundering from the shock of the fire. She remembered how Mom had reacted that time Hattie had made cheese toast in the oven and been distracted by a phone call from one of her friends. Mom had said she could have burned the house down, and Hattie hadn’t been allowed to meet her friends that day.

“Let’s get a move on.” Mom’s voice was too loud. “Come on, girls, the car isn’t going to unpack itself.”

Editorial Reviews

"In addition to the strong characterization and magical setting, the story weaves in realistic topics that many children will recognize from their own lives, including bullying, aging grandparents, and divorced parents, all the while validating their feelings . . . A charming family story with a touch of fairy-tale atmosphere." —Kirkus

"Via a cozy, magic-dusted family story that features a bewitching setting, Fawcett creates endearing and affectionate characters with realistic tensions—especially between scientifically minded Bee and her more imaginative family members—whose individual strengths help solve the central mystery." —Publishers Weekly

"Fawcett’s poignant story about imaginary worlds and very real problems, with its tongue-in-cheek nostalgic narration, is perfect for fans of Catherynne M. Valente and magical mysteries." —Booklist

"Watching the sisters move from bickering to cooperation and back is a delight, and Fawcett has a knack for making even marine-life characters essential to the story, allowing the offbeat town to develop beyond its considerable quirkiness. Complicated topics (First Nations displacement, housing inequality, family feuds) don’t bog the narrative down, allowing the focus to remain on the core adventure and the bonds of sisterhood." —Horn Book

"Relatable issues are presented honestly, including sibling issues, divorced parents co-parenting, and aging grandparents.VERDICT With well-developed characters, this will have readers rooting for a solution to Granddaddy’sproblems, while savoring the slightly spooky, heart-thumping fairy tale." —School Library Journal

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