The Island of Lost Animals is an eventful picture book written and illustrated by Pasi Pitkänen. Its main character is a boy called Matias who takes his sister Jenni to the circus for Jenni’s birthday. During the show, something unexpected occurs – a black-and-white monster kidnaps a lion cub and Jenni who is dressed in a lion suit and disappears. Matias and a lion, father to the stolen cub, follow the monster on a boat to the open sea and all the way to a mysterious and exotic island.
Matias is depicted as a little boy with big spectacles. He does not look like a typical hero, however, looks can be deceiving. Matias is brave and energetic and does not hesitate to enter an adventure to rescue his little sister. In the course of the book, Matias is also proves to be fair and just.
The Island of Lost Animals reminds the reader of epic adventures in the jungle in the vein of Tarzan, Jungle Book and Robinson Crusoe. On the jungle island Matias and Pete the lion meet curious creatures who turn out to be already extinct animals. The island is inhabited for example by dodos that went extinct ca. 350 million years ago, by glyptodons and giant ground sloths that disappeared approximately 10 000 years ago. The illustrations portray the breath-taking nature on the island; the dense vegetation of the jungle, gigantic trees, treacherous quicksand, booming waterfalls and tropic shores. The island is wonderful and dangerous at the same time – just like islands are supposed to be!
The book is full of action and movement and the illustrations have characteristics typical for animation movies. Perspectives, scenes and atmosphere change dramatically from one spread to another, and the snatcher, who turns out to be a giant lemur, creates fear with its glowing red eyes. In the end, however, everything turns out alright.
The book takes a strong environmental position; the giant lemur took the lion cub and lion-dressed Jenni because there is only a handful of barbary lions still alive. The lemur tries to protect threatened species, after all he is the last survivor of his kind. Pete the lion and his cub decide to stay on the island. They never really liked to perform in a circus anyway. Matias and Jenni return home and promise they will never let any new species go extinct. The ending gives the impression this shall not be their last adventure.
The Island of Lost Animals makes a wonderful read for adventure-seeking environmentalists!