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Literature / Nim's Island

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Nim's Island is a preteen adventure-fantasy novel by Wendy Orr, first published in 1999.

The story is centered around a girl named Nim Russo, and her adventures with her father on and around a secret island untouched by humans. At times the story reads like a Lighter and Softer Robinson Crusoe-esque Slice of Life, but there are two main plot threads. One centers around Nim's father, who goes away on a research trip but is nearly killed in a storm; the other centers around Nim's unlikely but growing friendship with a writer named Alex via email. In the background are themes about family, growing up, friendship, and a Green Aesop.

In 2008, Nim's Island got a film adaptation starring Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, and Gerard Butler, which is much more famous than the book. The plot is more or less the same, with the exception of the Troppo Tourists subplot which is removed altogether.


This work and its adaptation provides examples of:

  • Broken Pedestal: When Nim finds out Alex is a girl and didn't actually do the exploring she wrote about in her books, she's not happy.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: At several points, it's clear that Nim doesn't understand the difference between fiction and reality, even stating her belief that the boy from the tourist group isn't actually real. While you could argue that it's simply an over-active imagination, it doesn't really paint a good picture for her mental health overall.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Nim is almost always barefoot, unless she's climbing a mountain or going on top of a roof.
  • Madden Into Misanthropy: Mild example. After his wife's death, Jack effectively isolates himself and his daughter from human society and doesn't plan on returning anytime soon.
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  • Married to the Job: Jack loves science A LOT, but it's not portrayed negatively until we see from Alex's perspective that Jack left Nim unattended on a deserted island during typhoon season.
  • Missing Mom: Nim's mother was killed in an accident.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Fred and Selkie, bearded dragon and sea lion, respectively.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Gerard Butler plays Alex Rover, with his natural accent, as well as Nim's father, with a Fake American accent that is truly embarrassing to hear, even when the Scottish vowels and Rs aren't forcing their way out. Best seen in the scene where Nim and her father are reunited. About a minute of relieved, Scottish-accented ranting, then he switches back to American in the space of a glance.
  • Product Placement: Done with a heavy hand in the movie. Most painfully, Purell hand sanitizer and Progresso soup, although there are a few (barely) subtler examples.
  • Sweet Seal: A sea lion serves as a pet and companion to a young girl who lives on a island with her father. When her father leaves the island for a while it's up to the girl and the sea lion to protect the island from any trespassers.
  • Underwater Fart Gag: When Nim is worried the tourists will make a mess of things, she tells Selkie to drive them away by farting near their boat. She does fart and they do get disgusted, but it doesn't drive them away.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Alexandra got over her agoraphobia, travelled halfway across the world, nearly drowned trying to rescue Nim... and Nim proceeds to berate her for not being the hero she pictured from her books.

Alternative Title(s): Nims Island