Giant Island

Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Doug Keith

In this wondrous picture book, two children explore the caves and coves of the tiny and oddly-named Giant Island. They are thrilled to discover that the island is, in fact, a submerged giant.  A delightful, intergenerational and interspecies adventure, Giant Island charms with hints of age-old magic, and pays tribute to mystery, curiosity, and friendship. This first real fantasy picture book by Jane Yolen in ages is based on a concept and paintings by illustrator Doug Keith.

Visit Giant Island, where fantastical adventures await.

Read Elizabeth Dulemba’s double interview with Jane Yolen and Doug Keith.

Read about the inspiration behind the magical story in Tara Lazar’s interview with Jane Yolen.

Read Jessica Warrick‘s image-packed interview with Doug Keith.

From Connie Fletcher from Booklist
The prolific, award-winning Yolen crafts an ingenious magic trick of a book here, where a big part of the fun is catching on to what the protagonists are standing on and exploring long before they do. A boy and a girl row out to a tiny circular island with their grandfather. As the grandfather fishes, the kids wander around the lush, tufty space and climb down into a cave filled with boulders and sea creatures. As the illustrations zoom out from the island, readers see that the landmass is gradually rising, revealing a giant eye within a craggy face and, below the surface, a giant blowing bubbles for the kids to play in. The illustrations, done in gouache and colored pencils, are wonderful in conveying a seemingly naturalistic surface into a magical one. This giant is a friendly one, and readers will want to return again and again to see how the slow reveal is pulled off. Delightful.

From Julie Danielson from The Horn Book Magazine.
Approaching Giant Island in Grandpa’s motorboat, Ava and Mason wonder why the small island has such a name. Grandpa says it’s always been called that: “That’s what my grandpa told me.” The children explore the island while Grandpa goes fishing and discover a cave “dripping with mystery.” Next, they jump into the water, noting that there “seemed to be magic everywhere” (the illustration shows the two floating in giant bubbles beneath the water’s surface). From a rocky ledge they can see the entire island: “Mason, look! The whole island is a giant!” By wielding perspective and scale in playful ways, Keith provides visual clues along the way: a stone that serves as the giant’s eye, moss that looks like its hair, and rocks under the water that form a giant’s affable face. The rocky ledge is the giant’s extended arm. Yolen fills the text with the children’s excited dialogue, which gives the book a lively tone; when Grandpa whispers as they leave at sunset, “Always good to see you, old friend,” readers know his intention was to give his grandchildren the same thrilling adventures he had as a child. The contrasts in the opening and closing endpaper celebrate the power of imagination to make magic. (Quotes are not final.)

From Gregory Maguire, author of WICKED
Jane Yolen, who sees stories everywhere, takes a giant leap here. Through her text and through comic and scintillating illustrations by Doug Keith, we learn that though no man may be an island, an island might be—well, a giant adventure, at least.

From Holly Black, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles
In Jane Yolen’s world, magic is everywhere for those who know how to look, and nowhere is that more true than on Giant Island.

From Tony DiTerlizzi, illustrator of The Spiderwick Chronicles
Gigantic adventures await on Giant Island! Jane Yolen’s inquisitive text brightens Doug Keith’s well observed watercolors. I can’t wait to visit again!

From Bruce Coville, author of 100+ titles
This delightful book, with its slow and delicious reveal of the life of a magical island, will enchant those children who know (much better than we adults do!) how truly alive the world can be!

From Kirkus Reviews 
Childhood magic shared with a new generation.
The wonder of childhood comes alive…literally.
When Ava and Mason and their dog, Cooper, visit Giant Island with their Grandpa, they can’t figure out how it got its name; it’s a tiny island where no giant could possibly live. But Grandpa says it’s always been called that, even back when he came there to fish with his own grandpa. As he fishes from the shore, the two children and their dog explore, finding a cave teeming with ocean life, stones “shiny as mirrors,” and a great spot for swimming. As the kids round the island, observant readers will start to see what they haven’t noticed yet: The whole island is a giant: the trees, hair; the cave, an ear; and the stones, eyes. Yolen and Keith could have stopped there—lots of islands are named after what they appear to be. But no, the magic of Giant Island is that this giant is alive and moving, their arms and fingers pointing, grasping, their facial expressions changing. And while Grandpa may pretend not to know what’s going on, he and the giant share parting words and a wave: “Always good to see you, old friend.” Keith’s gouache and colored pencil illustrations wonderfully suit the seaweed tufts and tightly packed rocks of the island and the ocean life that surrounds it. Grandpa and Mason have light skin; Ava’s is slightly darker. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

From Washington Independent Review of Books
Giant Island sat low in the water as the boat approached. ‘Why is it called Giant Island?’ Ava asked, looking at the map. ‘Always been Giant Island,’ Grandpa said, shifting gears.” True, it’s not all that big or impressive, but there’s something magical about the island’s twisty, hair-like trees and its bubbling, critter-filled waters. Why, it’s almost like it’s smiling at the children and welcoming them to play…

From Foreword Reviews
Surrounded by wisps of seaweed and schools of glimmering fish rests Giant Island: a collection of craggy rocks on which a small copse of trees grows. As Grandpa casts his line, the children take to exploring, discovering the wonders—and secrets—of the small island. Every blade of grass; multifaceted rocks; and starfish caught in the giant’s stringy, seaweed hair are lovingly rendered in whimsical illustrations that bring this fairy tale to life.

From The Picture Book Pages blog
Explore a fantastical world in Jane Yolen and Doug Keith‘s ‘Giant Island’. Two children, their dog and their grandfather boat out to an island for a day of fishing and exploring. Stepping off of the motorboat and onto the craggy shoreline of Giant Island, they see that the island is, in fact quite small. Little do they know, it holds a secret larger than life. 

Their grandfather begins fishing and makes himself comfortable. It seems, maybe, he’s been here before. The children set off exploring the little island where they find stone steps, a rocky cave, and clues hinting at a mythical presence.

After diving into the waters, they discover the magic of Giant Island and the secret lurking just below the surface.

A fun day out with their grandfather turns into a whimsical adventure two children won’t soon forget. Jane Yolen weaves a legendary tale full of magic and mystery. Evoking themes of friendship, discovery, and fantasy, clues are revealed that point the children toward the true nature of the island.

The relationship between the children and the dog really stands out. The children speak to the dog and it responds with enthusiastic barks as if it knows just what they’re saying.

Readers young and old will be enthralled with Doug Keith’s fantastical illustrations. Using a combination of gouache paint and coloured pencil, Keith creates a stunning realm where giants roam.

The illustration with the giant blowing bubbles underwater as he holds his stony hand to his lips is fantastic. The children and their dog are swirling around, playing in the bubbles, blown from the giant.

The effect he achieves with his illustrations is really colourful and captivating, a feast for the eyes and the imagination.

Bubbling with magic, Jane Yolen and Doug Keith’s ‘Giant Island’ is a mythical adventure for readers of all ages. The humungous rock formations resembling human forms, mimetoliths, will leave you daydreaming about your next outdoor adventure. I have no doubt this will be a picture book children will ask to read again and again.

From Lydia (age 8) from Kids’ BookBuzz
Giant Island is the story of a brother and sister who are taken to an island with their grandpa and don’t understand why it’s called “Giant Island” when it looks so small. The grandpa goes there to fish while the kids explore the island and find a cave with mysterious things in it! By the end of their time on the island, they figure out why it’s called Giant Island and look forward to visiting the island again!

When I was reading the story, I was exploring the island right along with the kids and didn’t quite pick up on the clues also until they did. This island would be a fun one to visit – my favorite part was when they went swimming inside bubbles! The whole story is interesting and different from other ones I’ve read; I like it a lot. I like Jane Yolen’s other dinosaur books as well, so I’m glad I liked this one after reading it. The pictures are colorful, and I like how they fill the whole page – they help tell the story just by looking at them. I’m sure that kids of all ages will enjoy this story because it’s magical!

From Delia Sherman, anthologist and fantasy writer
A beautifully imaginative tale of discovery and magic and family history on an island that really lives up to its name.

From David L. Harrison, author of THE BOOK OF GIANT STORIES
There is a place. A magical place. A magical place with giants who keep giant secrets. Author Jane Yolen discovered the place and only Jane knows the way. Only the artist Doug Keith knows what it looks like. Want to go? Grandpa has a sturdy boat to take you there. Hop in. Keep your eyes wide open. There may be more than one giant in this magical place with giants who keep giant secrets.

From George Leeson, president and owner of Image Conscious
The boundless imagination and witty genius in Doug Keith’s Giant Island imagery never ceases to delight.

From Jean Davies Okimoto, author of Dear Ichiro
Doug Keith’s delightful and humorous illustrations make this trip to Giant Island an enchanting and magical adventure for all those lucky enough to come along.

From Molly Murrah, watercolor artist
Giant Island is a charming children’s tale filled with magical illustrations that will keep your child fascinated and engaged for a very long time. Every illustration is bewitching, and the more you look… the more you see.

From Benjamin E. Sapp, director of University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum
I love how Jane Yolen’s text and Doug Keith’s illustrations come together to make this lovely work of art from cover to cover!

From Terri Cohlene, freelance editor & art director
Giant Island is a delight, from the beautiful, embossed cover, to the twist ending, to the provocative end papers. Doug Keith does not disappoint with his quirky sense of humor and fantastical imagination. Paired with Jane Yolen’s fun text, this is a perfect story to explore over and over and over again! You will discover something new and wonderful each time!

From Herb Weisbaum, Emmy Award-winning broadcaster
What fun! Doug Keith’s uniquely creative illustrations jump off the page and bring Giant Island to life! And how nice to have a kids’ story about a giant who is friendly!

From Faranae, HabitRPG Book Lists blog
The story is nice and whimsical, and I think parents are going to have “fun” with the incessant questions from the kids about whether the giant is real or not.

From Bound 4 Escape blog:
Two children go to Giant Island with their grandpa and don’t understand why such a small island is called Giant Island…until they explore while Grandpa is fishing. They have a great time playing and exploring, and they have a big secret when it’s time to go home!

Giant Island is an amazing book that children will want to read again and again. The story is a great fantasy, and the illustrations (paintings) are wondrous. They help to tell the story especially at the end. Such a fun read!

From Christine Irvin, Children’s Bookwatch 
When Grandpa takes his grandkids for their first trip to Giant Island, he goes off to fish and they go off to explore. They soon discover the secret of why the island got its name but they don’t tell Grandpa. But… perhaps Grandpa already knows the secret. Minimal text and great illustrations make this a picture-perfect picture book. (Ages 5-7)

From Pam WattsFlavin, Head of Children’s Services at Robbins Library, Youth Services Book Review
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

What did you like about the book? Layers of intrigue surround this fun book from Jane Yolen and Doug Keith. Ava and Mason join Grandpa and Cooper the dog on a fishing trip to Giant Island. While approaching the Island they wonder where the island got its name. The kids decide to explore and see if they can find the giant while Grandpa attempts to catch some fish. They explore paths and caves and stare at shiny stones and jump off rocks into the sea but they don’t see a giant – but we do! Doug Keith’s fun and detailed illustrations show a hidden and mostly submerged giant whose eyes are made of rocks and hair is made of seaweed. Big sea turtles swim around outcroppings of rocks that are shaped like the giants’ fingers and arms. As the kids are ready to give up their hunt, the giant (island) suddenly grins at them. Grandpa wonders who has been disturbing the fish and Ava and Mason know – so do we…

Anything you didn’t like about it? This is a great book

To whom would you recommend this book?  Lovers of Jane Yolen’s picture books and anyone who loves when the illustrations tell a story that the words do not.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school libraries, public libraries and anyone who wants to share a fun book with children.

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Sure, it’s fun to investigate the island with Ava and Mason


About the Creators

Jane Yolen is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and children’s books. She is the author or editor of over 400 books, including Owl Moon, winner of the Caldecott award, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight and the rest of the beloved How Do Dinosaurs series, and The Devil’s Arithmetic, a middle grade Holocaust novel. She lives in Western Massachusetts. There are two islands in Jane’s background: Manhattan Island where she spent her early years, and the Isle of Skye in Scotland where she has spent lots of time for the past 30 summers. Either of them could have housed a giant. 
You can find out more about Jane and her works on her website


Doug Keith has over thirty years’ experience as an illustrator, designer, and fine artist. His resume includes forty plus illustrated books, a Benjamin Franklin Award for interior design, a television Emmy award for graphic design, and commissioned works at Windermere Real Estate and Puget Sound Energy. Doug lives in Seattle, Washington, surrounded by the mountains and water which inspired Giant Island.



ISBN: HC 9781947277182  ebook 9781947277199  Audiobook 9781947277922  Read-along Audio 9781947277854
Print Length: 32 Full Color Pages
Publication Date: August 2022
Age Group: 4-8
Library of Congress Control Number: 2021951768

Activity Guides & More

    Leveling Information

    Fountas and Pinnell – Text Level P

    Lexile Measurements provided by Metametrics.

    Lexile Display: AD490L
    Word Count: 346
    MSL: 6.528
    MLF: 3.424
    Decoding Display: Very High
    Semantic Display: High
    Syntactic Display: Medium
    Structure Display: High