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Island of the Blue Dolphins
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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6407 comments Island of the Blue Dolphins (Island of the Blue Dolphins, #1) by Scott O'Dell
Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell
5*****

This is fast becoming a classic of children’s literature. The novel is based on a true story of a woman left behind on an island off the coast of California when the rest of her Native American tribe left the island for the mainland. The real woman who was eventually rescued and taken to Santa Barbara Mission spoke a language that no one understood. She succumbed to disease just a few weeks after arriving in California, so she was unable to tell her story, except for a few basic ideas conveyed in a sort of sign language. O’Dell imagined the rest.

Karana is twelve years old at the outset of the novel, used to the division of labor and cooperative work of her tribal family. She knows how to make clothing and forage for food, but tribal custom leaves the hunting and fishing to the men. Still, she is a keen observer and figures out how to repair an old canoe, build a shelter, secure stores of food, and clothe herself. Left alone on the island, she struggles with making a decision to hunt – will the gods be angry if she dares to craft a weapon and use it?

I loved this young woman. She’s practical and brave, resourceful and creative. She works hard at survival, but she works “smart” as well. The village area that was ideal for a community is too exposed for her to live there alone. The large flat mesa-like rock gives her safety from the pack of wild dogs but does not provide shelter from the wind and elements. She befriends one of the dogs and has a companion at last … for the first time realizing how lonely she had been before she had Rontu to talk to.

I really liked how O’Dell conveyed the importance of a connection to nature. He also gives a sense of how all-consuming the work of survival is for Karana. This is not to say that she has no elements of joy or play, but she cannot afford to be idle for long.

O’Dell has crafted an enduring story of strength, courage and resilience. The book won the John Newbery Medal for excellence in children’s literature.


NOTE: This is the second time I've read this, the first being sometime in about 1998. But I didn't record it in any way, nor write any review at that time.


Cheryl  (cherylllr) Oh it's def. a 'classic' already. It's been taught in schools for decades. There's also controversy over it.

I'm glad to know you liked it. When my Newbery discussion group reads it, I know we'll have plenty to discuss!


message 3: by Jgrace (last edited Jun 11, 2018 09:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jgrace | 3112 comments O’Dell’s books are standard middle grade literature. They are a terrific introduction to historical fiction. I taught this one in the early 1980’s when I did two years as a 4th grade teacher. It’s a “must do” with California history. But it was published in 1960 and there is some controversy around it (and the follow up, Zia,) but I think there’s value in discussing that with kids. It’s still a really well written story.


Tessa (FutureAuthor23) | 229 comments I loved this when I was a kid and still have my old copy


message 5: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Oliver | 2105 comments Have never read or heard of this. adding to TBR. Thank you


Jgrace | 3112 comments Jgrace wrote: "O’Dell’s books are standard middle grade literature. They are a terrific introduction to historical fiction. I taught this one in the early 1980’s when I did two years as a 4th grade teacher. It’s ..."

One more point for continuing to use this book with children. Karana is a wonderful, strong, female protagonist. And a woman of color. It's a survival story in which a female character is self sufficient. These are good things to promote. Some discussion about the differences between reality and fiction, and of changing cultural attitudes makes it all the more valuable.


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