Captain Horror's Island

by Rodoula Pappa

Selection: BOOKS AT BERLINALE 2018

—Imagine you are 9 years old and find out you have lived all your life on a desert island.
—Imagine you realise the island’s only inhabitants are the cruelest villains on Earth.
—Imagine you are one of them.
What would you do?

If you have a look at a map, right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and thousands of miles away from any land worthy of being called that, you will see a tiny little dot. If your map is a really good one, right next to the dot there will be written: 

Captain Horror’s Island
The Happiest Place on Earth

This is the story of the island. 
And of the question mark.

In a Greek fishing village, little Vrasidas is born. At a young age he works as a fisherman’s apprentice, but it doesn’t take long for him to join a pirate crew. Years later, he is the infamous Captain Horror, arguably the richest man on earth.

When he decides it’s time to marry, he asks for a wife to be sent from his home village to his island. Afroxylanthi, a loud-mouthed woman with a fine moustache enthusiastically joins her husband’s expeditions, a pleasure she has to give up when she’s about to have a child.

When baby Melinda is born, Captain Horror is transformed into a doting father. Melinda is as fierce as her parents, deft with all number of cutlasses and daggers by the age of five.

Yet, when she turns nine, she chances upon a cave full of stolen books. She is fascinated by their pictures and demands that a teacher be abducted for her sake so she may learn to read. She realises that she has lived all her life on a desert island among vicious villains. From then on she spends her days and nights reading.

When her mother disappears, Melinda puts the blame on her father and his crew, and demands that they quit their trade. Eventually father and daughter reconcile and conspire to lure the pirates into reading by strictly prohibiting them from laying their hands on any reading material.

The pirates start stealing the books, and when the plot comes to light they agree to start educating themselves: they learn good manners, grammar, and take singing lessons; they become carpenters, shoemakers, tailors; they cultivate the earth. And they give up piracy.

In the epilogue Melinda returns to the island as a young woman with a group of talented young people. Through their efforts, the island becomes world famous as the happiest place on earth – until it suddenly disappears.

Some say it was due to an enormous tsunami or maybe an earthquake. Others insist that thanks to some amazing technology, the island flew to outer space. You can actually spot it if you look carefully at the night sky. Who knows, maybe it’s true? Does it really matter?

About the author:

Rodoula Pappa is a writer and translator of children’s books and co-founder of the children's books imprints "Tsalapeteinos" and "Volatilium". Her first book, The Boy with the Tree (2012) won the Greek National Prize for children’s literature. She studied archaeology and currently lives on a small Greek island.

This is the first story in a trilogy that takes place on a desert island, in 19th century Europe, and finally in 21st century outer space and on Earth.
GENRE: Comedy, Fantasy

If you touch even a copper penny of the loot, I’ll chop you up so fine that even the fish won’t bother to eat you!

Captain Horror
  • This entertaining story addresses a wide audience: young boys will be fascinated by pirates, girls will identify with Melinda, and adults and parents will connect emotionally with a child character that gives more meaning to the lives of the people around her.
  • It comes at a time ripe for fearless heroines who can stand up for themselves and for what they consider to be morally right.
  • The story celebrates the transformative power of love, of a father’s love for his daughter that proves to be stronger than old habits and established ways of life.
  • Also, the character of Captain Horror, who transforms from a brutal pirate to a doting father and then a gentleman, is a challenging role for any actor.

Pippy Longstocking meets Johnny Depp

Syd Atlas, Berlinale 2018

To be published in Greece: Autumn 2018

This is the first story in a trilogy that takes place on a desert island, in 19th century Europe, and finally in 21st century outer space and on Earth.

WORLD RIGHTS AVAILABLE [literary agents: welcome!]