Welcome to The YA Literary Review!

Apr 16, 2015


  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Series: Chronicles of the Black Tulip (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Walden Pond Press (September 1, 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 0062221906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062221902


Does the Vanishing Island really exist? And if so, what treasure—or terrible secret—was hidden by its disappearance?

It’s 1599, the Age of Discovery in Europe. But for Bren Owen, growing up in the small town of Map on the coast of Britannia has meant anything but adventure. Enticed by the tales sailors have brought through Map’s port, and inspired by the arcane maps his father creates as a cartographer for the cruel and charismatic map mogul named Rand McNally, Bren is convinced that fame and fortune await him elsewhere. That is, until his repeated attempts to run away land him a punishment worse than death—cleaning up the town vomitorium. 

It is there that Bren meets a dying sailor, who gives him a strange gift that hides a hidden message. Cracking the code could lead Bren to a fabled lost treasure that could change his life forever, and that of his widowed father. But to get there he will have to tie his fate to a mysterious Dutch admiral obsessed with a Chinese legend about an island that long ago disappeared from any map. Before long, Bren is in greater danger than he ever imagined, and will need the help of an unusual friend named Mouse to survive. 

Barry Wolverton’s thrilling adventure spans oceans and cultures, brings together the folklore of East and West, and proves that fortune is always a double-edged sword.


I just received an Uncorrected Proof of Barry Wolverton's upcoming MG mystery, THE VANISHING ISLAND (Chronicles of the Black Tulip, Book One) and was tickled to find there's a character in it, leaning against a barrel, called "Roderick Keyes, more mustache than man." My last name is Keyes. As I'm a friend of Barry's I checked in with him and he confirmed that it wasn't a coincidence—he'd needed a British name, so he borrowed mine. Delighted, I read eagerly on.

Two pages later, after an unhappy collision between a clumsy, adventure-seeking stowaway, a pipe-smoking sailor, and eight kegs of gunpowder, Keyes gets blown to kingdom come. Sometimes there's no justice in this world. But, after reading the prologue and first chapter, I knew I was in the hands of a master storyteller and ended up finishing it that night in one, greedy gulp.

The central mystery of Marco Polo's secret treasure map unfolded with smooth logic, and I enjoyed the moral ambiguity of the antagonists, both familial and sea-faring.

I was particularly struck by the beautifully crafted, inventive, and detailed alternative world Wolverton has created, peopled by characters who were so well-drawn that, while I enjoyed predicting how they'd feel about any given situation, I couldn't guess how they'd respond. The story celebrates, nay, revels in big ideas, but doesn't take itself too seriously, providing lots of laugh-out-loud moments.

So, you heard it here first. Put this stellar, intelligent, middle grade adventure by Barry Wolverton on your Want To Read list now.

Personally, I can't wait for the second volume of The Chronicles of the Black Tulip to find out where Bren's adventures will take him next!


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