The Fitzgerald-Trouts: Roald Dahl Meet Pippi Longstocking

Twists, turns and collectivist environmental dilemmas, delightfully rendered

The Fitzgerald-Trouts are at it again. The band of loosely related siblings are still on their own, navigating the tropical island they call home, where the grownups are still useless and where they still live in their car. They’re back for brand-new adventures with this second volume from author Esta Spalding and illustrator Sydney Smith.

It’s summer and unusual things are happening on the island. A lot of rain, a lot more bugs, an awakening volcano and some suspicious characters lurking around. The children are determined to get to the bottom of what is going on. They encounter obstacles, challenges and some good-hearted fun along the way.

The very cute family tree illustrated by “Pippa” at the front of the book will come in handy to keep the characters straight, unless of course readers are familiar with the spunky clan from their first adventure, Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts.

This story will exercise younger readers’ imaginations with its sinister plot twists and turns. The books have been compared to the Boxcar Children series and to tales from Roald Dahl. It also reminded me of the adventures of Pippi Longstocking and more recently, Disney’s Moana, the daughter of a village chief who also sets out to save her island.

At the height of the novel, the Fitzgerald-Trouts are faced with a difficult decision, whther to look out for themselves or for their island. They come to the realization that even if the adults have let them down, the island hasn’t. It has fed them, provided shelter and protection. If they take care of it, it will take care of them–an excellent environmental theme tied in with the plot.

Author Esta Spalding grew up on a tropical island where she never wore shoes and now, when she’s not writing, she kayaks, bakes and assembles whale skeletons with her husband, a marine biologist. She has perfectly created the backdrop for this band of misfits and their tropical-island surroundings.

Award-winning illustrator Sydney Smith, who spent his childhood as a naturalist and researcher in rural Nova Scotia and “paid close attention to wild creatures and things that grow in dirt,” is an excellent choice to bring to life the Fitzgerald-Trouts and their island.

However, the fun, carefree, summer-loving Fitzgerald-Trouts boating in the lovely cover illustration offers up a spoiler. The Fitzgerald-Trouts are on a quest throughout the novel to hunt down and secure the boat–and potential home–that is rightfully theirs, but it is not until near the end of the story that they finally find themselves all aboard. Still there remains a final obstacle that puts their ownership of the boat in jeopardy–the minor detail of saving their beloved island–and readers will have to follow until the very last chapter to find out what unfolds.

Knock About with the Fitzgerald-Trouts
By Esta Spalding, illustrated by Sydney Smith
Tundra Books

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Heather Fegan is a freelance writer, book reviewer and blogger based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Follow her chronicles at

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