When a small island appears in the middle of a river running through their town, 12-year-old best friends Billy, Charlie, and Sami lay claim to it – and the Kingdom of No Worries is born. The kids create a flag, set up the laws of their land, and compose an anthem to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Soon townspeople start arriving with flowers and plants, food and music. Most are just visiting, but others stay.
Their innocent-seeming summer experiment exposes the boys to concepts of conflict, sovereignty, community, civil disobedience (the police want to shut it all down), and land claims (First Nations leaders challenge the kids’ right to the island). But while veteran children’s book author Philip Roy (Submarine Outlaw, Happy the Pocket Mouse) covers some big ideas in this middle-grade novel, he doesn’t sacrifice story for pedantry.
The Kingdom of No Worries is a fun read, with energetic, witty, and engaging dialogue. And there is an impressive interior world as well. Roy captures Billy’s feelings of being in over his head. While that’s a common experience for most kids, it’s magnified for this island co-ruler, who’s governing a growing population of adult residents and visitors – some of whom bring their problems to the boys’ utopia while others leave their garbage behind.
The island is only temporary; when it disappears so do the kids’ responsibilities. But the lessons remain: “Now, I think I know who owns the land,” says Billy. “Nobody. … We will come and go, and then other people will come and go, but the land will still be here.”