Do you enjoy a good story with compelling and memorable heroes and heroines? This monthly column features homeschooled characters in literature and film. Wish you had your own copy of the book or movie? Just click on the product image or text links to go to the author’s site or Amazon to buy it!
Nim’s Island (2008, PG) is a wonderful adventure story that can be enjoyed by both kids and adults. The movie, based on the novel by Wendy Orr, stars Abigail Breslin as Nim Rusoe, Jodie Foster as Alex Rover, and Gerard Butler as Nim’s father, Jack Rusoe. I love this movie and have watched it over and over again.
11-year old Nim lives on a remote island in the middle of the South Pacific with an iguana named Fred, a sea lion named Selkie, a pelican named Galileo, and her marine biologist father. Nim thinks that their island is the most beautiful one in the whole world, and so far they’ve managed to keep its exact location a closely guarded secret.
It’s refreshing to see a main character who is a young homeschooled girl and is also a strong female role model. Nim is both science-savvy and a book lover. Adventure and imagination are a way of life for her. She is bright and independent, thanks to her unique opportunity to learn in freedom, and she isn’t afraid to get dirty. It’s fun to see Nim’s friendly relationship with the animals, and her expert ability to navigate the island.
While Nim’s scientist dad sails off to explore the microscopic world of ocean plankton, she occupies herself with modern Swiss Family Robinson-like chores such as keeping her dad’s batteries charged so she can check his e-mail on the computer. Thanks to solar panels and a satellite dish, their high-tech treehouse is equipped with internet and electricity. Talk about living off the grid! It’s quite an idyllic life they lead on the island.
But then an unexpected storm brings suspense and peril while also offering a touching look at the love between a father and daughter. When Nim’s dad doesn’t come back, the girl’s only link to humanity becomes Alex Rover (Nim’s favorite author!), who just happens to e-mail Jack to ask him some scientific questions for an upcoming book.
As a borderline agoraphobic myself, I appreciate that the movie includes a realistic portrayal of how debilitating anxiety disorders can be, taking such neuroses seriously and not just treating them as a joke. (Jodie Foster does a remarkable job of acting exactly how I would feel in such situations.) I especially like how Foster’s character is critical to the story, which has an inspiring theme about stepping out of your comfort zone and overcoming your fears to “be the hero of your own life story.”
Nim also gets scared and upset and hurts herself, but she is resourceful and keeps her wits about her. Even while all alone and worried about her father, she comes up with a clever plan to divert some unwelcome tourists off the island. Thus, Nim’s Island also has a good message about maintaining a positive attitude in times of stress.
Nim’s Island is a joy to watch, starting with the beautifully animated opening sequence. This feel-good movie contains all the elements of a magical summer adventure, the pleasure of reading an exciting book, and even a little romance. The uplifting song playing over the closing credits (another lovely animation) is “Beautiful Day” by U2.
By the way, you may be interested to know that Abigail Breslin was homeschooled by her parents at home and by a tutor on set, so they chose the right actress to play Nim!
As for the novel by Wendy Orr, I haven’t read it. I know the movie was based on it, but I don’t know how close the movie is to the original story. I’m kind of afraid the book won’t be the same and will spoil the movie for me that I love so much. Like, do they have the same high-tech treehouse? Does Alex Rover have the same obsessive-compulsive behavior? Have you watched the movie and also read the book? Which do you like better, and why? Please share your thoughts! ~Tab Olsen