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The Island of Two Trees
Author: Nathaniel Slattery
Posted: 6th Day of the Month of Mary, Year of Our Lord 2024

The Island of Two Trees

Overall, it has an innocent and modern feel, with references such as “spandex” that are unlikely to negatively affect children, unless you have raised them in homemade habits, as I know some have. But by innocent, I mean that the author draws the children from a modern life towards a medieval-esque life. He does this quite literally by transporting them to an island with knights and monsters.


There are three main characters in the book as well as their parents, who are more periphery. These are an eldest boy, twelve years old, and his two younger sisters, eight and ten. They are transported to this fantastical island, which is an allegory acknowledged openly as their father’s imagination, although it is more real and significant than that implies. They have to battle with a sword, bow, and knives. The boy is well-chosen by the author to be up front and close quarters, while the girls are placed farther away. I discussed this with the author. It was difficult for him to choose how to handle violence, but he followed the example of the heretic C.S. Lewis.

Boys and Girls

His approach is good in acknowledging the difference between the sexes (by manner of their weapons). He grounds it also in the Trinity, namely the Father and the Son, which appends his set up for the intricacies of the plot. Here is an excerpt:

“In the old books there are laws written that govern the bond between our worlds,” the queen explained. “They speak of a love so powerful it can defeat the greatest of evils— this is the love of a parent and a child. These laws guide me to summon the firstborn of the storyteller, who represents and leads all the offspring, in order that he or she may wield the power of this love. This power lives inside you, Connor, flowing through your heart from a wellspring of love for your parents. Therefore, it is only you who have the ability…”

There is a certain imperfection in this that the terms are open in gender (especially the “he or she”), suggesting in this excerpt at least that a firstborn daughter has quite the same “power” as a firstborn son, which is patently false. But this suggestion is not necessarily even present in the author, and it is not strongly enough allowed that I think it would wound a child, even the most carefully protected of daughters. And as I recall, elsewhere in the book, by portrayal if not by words, the male gender is effectively represented in its differences, as I have explained above.

I only have very young children as yet, but it seems to me as if children do not take in the suggestions that might show themselves to full grown men. Rather, I think we can have a certain leeway in some areas and not in others. This would be discerned by a knowledge of a child’s interaction with other stories. I know for a fact that many other books would be much more aggressive in their errors, and this one is not actually in error, but only missing an opportunity to strengthen and instruct a child in a key, complex area of knowledge that otherwise can be very confusing and destructive: the differences of the sexes. In other places, the author does not miss the opportunity. There is no erroneous portrayal of the sexes that would confuse children, in my opinion.

There are, in some places, hand-drawn pictures of characters. These are fairly delightful. The women are dressed modestly, with sleeves only short of the elbows (in a manner negligible to all but the purists), and hair uncovered and loose (again, only of a concern to those most exacting about modesty), all other necklines and similar parts of concern fairly within reason. The younger girls are dressed in such a manner as to show their armpits, but this is perhaps allowable for their age. The most concerning one is on page 246, a few pages into ch 27 (a similar one is on pg 159 in ch 18), while the second most is on pg 64, midway through ch 9. The former is the ten year old, the latter is a full grown woman. There are no extra lines in the illustrations to emphasize something that ought not to be, and they are altogether more modest than the average statue of a modern saint. The style is simple and natural. It impressed me sufficiently that I think I may mimic it with my own children’s book.


The actual violence looks like this:

“The girls pulled out their weapons and began to fire them again in an act of desperation. Maggie hit one in the leg, causing him to lose his balance and fall to his death. But there were still three left, plus the leader on the ground. Connor pulled out his sword to prepare himself for battle. The creatures were only feet away now, licking drool off their scaly lips and jagged teeth. Their black eyes zeroed in on the children as they pulled out their daggers.”

I have not read C. S. Lewis since I was a child, but I read Tolkien recently, and this reminds me of him. Perhaps less frightening. Mr. Kennelly uses the same tact as them in making the bad guys distinctly non-human and beast-like, although they do speak. They are described as demons. There is an illustrated picture of one of them on page 176 at the beginning of ch 20. I read part of this chapter to my daughter, and it did not seem to bother her much. Even though I have warned her about reading books, looking at computer screens, or handling cell phones without my direction, telling her demons could pop up and giving her an image of St. Antony’s temptation, still she looked at this picture without much trouble. I explained to her that certain men who understand demons are given a gift to describe them to others so that they can help others resist them. She understood and saw the difference. She turns three next month.

Now, I have also slaughtered a rooster in front of her and fed her sheep that she knew and with which she played (I had Benny the ram’s skin hanging around, and she now associates white towels with him, calling them Benny), but I honestly think violence is not so difficult for children as it is made out to be by our warped culture. The sorts of things children are commonly exposed to in cities are much worse than the natural violence on a farm or even in the lives of the saints and martyrs. All things with prudence, but you can use your own judgment.

The words “death” and “end” are used, and blood is mentioned typically at the end and never as I saw it during a battle, only in clean up and recovery, if you will. The verbs are fairly soft, “slice” and “struck”. As I say in my writing class in dealing with the fifth commandment, the requirement for a writer is not to avoid violence— because that is in fact our domain of portrayal— but to avoid reveling in it. As a quick explanation, fiction writing is ordered to portray reality and particularly those difficult circumstances which men might have to encounter and endure without sinning. This is because it grows out of hagiography, the lives of the saints. That makes violence its natural instrument. However, to revel in the violence, or to make it meaningless, or to misunderstand its purpose, is to forget the end in favor of the means. It is no different on a farm, the way the vast majority of children have been raised for all history (read the Old Testament). This author obeys these rules well.

C.S. Lewis

This author has told me that he uses C.S. Lewis as an inspiration, and it can be easily seen in his book. Now, that is fairly innocent. I have written many things based on worldly and sinful inspirations, and generally the world of modern (and classical) literature is so depraved that it seems to me to be a good service actually to take anything good or true or beautiful found in those books and provide an orthodox Catholic alternative. I truly believe that most or all of this stuff will be destroyed at the Triumph. This is more considerable than copyright law, which also will likely be gone at that time. And so I have actually purposefully gone through and written certain books in order to accomplish this, so that men might choose not to read, for instance, a very popular science fiction book with all of its disgusting concepts mixed in with seductive and even truly good insights. Instead, they might read my book Splendor.

Now, C.S. Lewis is a beautifully poetic, insightful, and prolific writer. He is the beneficiary of that promise our Mother made of England at the time of Her apparitions in the nineteenth century in France. She said that a great country to the north would convert. Some others were Chesterton and Newman. But unfortunately, England did not convert (men did not accomplish the commands of our Lady), and so Lewis remained a heretic and schismatic until his death, so far as I know (God rest his soul and provide for his final conversion). This comes out all throughout his writings. Because of the amount of goodness and truth in them, the lies are particularly seductive, insidious, and dangerous. If you are unconvinced about this, you might read my article “Why I have a publishing company” where I go through a specific example from the Screwtape Letters about the doctrine of the visibility of the Church.

What all this means is that we ought to laud Mr. Kennelly for providing us a Catholic alternative to the dangerous heretic Lewis, and pray and desire him to write much more, to search out if God has given him a grace to replace more of the many writings of Lewis, as here he has begun to replace Narnia.


There are many useful and good concepts throughout the book, such as starting a fire. It also gains in interest from the adventure portrayed. It is also very good that this adventure ultimately takes place within the confines of their father’s dominion. The bad part is that they do it apparently without the blessing of their father, which is only attained later. This is something to perhaps explain to children, especially daughters. It is a failing (perhaps a necessary one) of fiction that it invokes wanderlust in a child, causing them perhaps to dream of places away from their fathers, where we know that sin thrives. But, on the bright side, books like this that portray a life no longer present in the modern world, perhaps might inspire a child to create it rather than search for it. This is doubly good if the father is in the midst of creating it, as for instance you would be if you are working towards making a traditional Catholic village or becoming a butcher and swineherd. Also, it might be that the sense of adventure is also satisfied in reading about it, if it is already there and present in a child. These things are worth thinking about. They will be dependent on specific children.

Profundity of Storytelling

This is similar to the idea about adventure. Reading, writing, and literature is a dangerous pursuit that opens up many roads of confusion and error. If it is not present in a child as a desire, then why promote it? Why not simply let him do woodworking or something more modest? Is it ever recorded that St. Joseph wrote? Our Lord seems only to have done it in the sand one time during His Incarnation upon Earth.

If it is present in a child, however, it should be carefully discerned. And if it seems to be a grace of God for their future labors or some other purpose, then it ought to be carefully formed and instructed.

Below I have copied the passage in this book which may plant, invoke, or form this desire of writing and storytelling in a child (near the end are some lesser encouragements as well):

“’You have entered a new dimension, children. It is known as the Realm of the Imagination. Each person where you come from has a place in this realm where his imagination lives. Right now, you are within a piece of your father’s imagination, the piece that brought this island to life.’

“With this new revelation, the children finally understood why Anastasia had called them the ‘children from the outside’. Connor, Maggie, and Lucy began to look all around the grand throne room, as if that might help them understand, as if they might see some sign they were within their father’s mind, though none of them could have said what they were looking for. Were they expecting to see the inner part of his ears or the backside of his eyes?

“’Look all around you,’ the Mysteria Queen offered, holding up her arms and motioning at the throne room. ‘I assure you this is real. What the human imagination creates may seem like pretend, but here in this realm those things are very much real. This is where your stories come to life. I know this sounds strange, but recall that we were just talking about love. Love is invisible in your world, and here, for that matter, but in another realm higher than even this one, love is a real, tangible thing, something you can see and touch. So don’t be confused by what your senses tell you is real, for not all real things can be found where you live.’

“The children felt like they were in the midst of an adult conversation since all this was so confusing, and yet, it wasn’t so confusing after all. Lady Mysteria had a way of saying things very plainly. Connor, Maggie, and Lucy each felt she was telling them things they already knew to be true, she was only helping them realize it, like when you have a fever you know it because you feel so crummy, but the thermometer tells you for sure.

“’So my dad’s imagination created all this?’ Connor asked.

“’In a sense, yes. But he did not create it alone. No story from your world is told solely by the story-teller. They tell their stories in tandem with someone else.’

“’Who?’ Lucy asked.

“’There is a force in the universe known as the Counselor of Chronicles. Since before time, he lived alone in this realm, though he was perfectly content in his solitude, for he was filled in his inner being with stories, fables, and tales. They lived inside him the way heat lives in the fire’s flame, or the way air lives in the wind. But several millennia ago, the Giver of All Things unleashed the Counselor into your realm, asking him to be the giver of life to the human imagination. He does this by imparting the Seven Gifts of Storytelling: Creativity, Perseverance, Discipline, Diligence, Vision, Patience, and Empathy. Through these gifts, he helps stories dance in the minds of humanity and gives them the will to tell their stories. But the Counselor had to be hidden because his power would overwhelm the human imagination. Thus, the Giver of All Things hid him in the moonlight.'”

At this point, the author slides into a more fantastical than mystical explanation, which may have concerns to some parents for teaching their children bad habits of imagination, such as analyzing dreams and the like, but I think that he becomes fantastical enough that it ought to prevent a child from really applying it in his own life. But I do not know, because I have not seen the effect directly in my experience of a child reading this particular passage. To take your own look, this point continues on page 70, about midway through chapter 9, “Meeting a Queen”.

Problematic Passages

I have made a list of some problematic passages that ought to be explained or removed before children come to them. I apologize if you discover anything I have missed. I had not thought to do this until chapter 20, when one stood out to me very much. But there was nothing to trigger an alarm before that, besides what I have mentioned above. Here:

The first half of chapter ten should be read, starting on page 75, because it deals with a theological topic. I had no problem with it. It tells the story of the tree out of which the cross was made for our Lord. It is not meant to be taken strictly at all, but perhaps you might need to tell your children that it is a product of imagination and not tradition or anything of that manner.

Pg 175, the very first line of ch 20, where it says “Connor cursed himself”. Obviously, it is a sin to curse anyone, and so the lightness with which it is treated here, although easily forgiven of the author, ought to be addressed to the child. Otherwise, it might be that the child thinks it is natural to curse himself, or he might now know what it means to curse, both of which would be dangerous confusions. It might also simply be removed by a black marker or a liberally applied pen.

Pg 188, a couple of pages into ch 21, where it says “the fetal stages of his fire”. Now, this is in the midst of a very good description of starting a fire that is salutary for children, and it really is an innocent poetic description of the process. But, I could imagine an inquisitive child asking, “What does fetal stages mean?” I would not want a parent to be ambushed by this and forget to ask to see the context. I personally would recommend describing the word fetus in its Latin term, which is the beginning of a plant, if I recall correctly. There is no reason to connect it to current events or propaganda of the world.

Pg 202, the very last paragraph of ch 22. This has a scene of intimacy between the mother and father. I personally would remove this with a pen before letting children read it. Here it is: “He closed his eyes, and a few minutes later he was asleep. Mommy knew his body was exhausted from fighting the sickness and hoped the children would be able to save him. She laid her head down on his shoulder, cuddling up against his body which felt warm with fever. That’s when she glanced up and saw the tears streaming down his face.”

Pg 217, a few pages into ch 24. There is a story where the father’s shorts fall down. It seemed fairly innocent, but my alarm was triggered, and I thought I ought to mention it.

Pg 278, a couple of pages into ch 30. Here he says that they made their father and God proud. Now, I know this is common parlance, but I take umbrage with its use. It is so common and widespread that I do not fault an author with it. But in my own case, I probably would explain to my children that it is not good to be proud and either the author is wrong or else something besides pride is meant (although what is meant by this use of the word is actually a fine description of the sin).

In Conclusion

This book seems to be safe for mature children. It is probably more suited to boys than girls, but it might be good for both. There is violence portrayed modestly. It has elements encouraging adventure and storytelling in a child. There are modern references that are probably harmless. There are problematic passages that need to be addressed by parents.

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