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Title: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Karana lives on an island in a small community of native people. When the Aleuts show up to hunt otter, there is conflict and many in her tribe are killed. Not too long after, another ship arrives to take the remainder of her tribe to the mainland to start a new life there. Karana’s brother gets left behind when he goes back for something he forgot, and she jumps from the ship into the sea to swim back to the island. Because of bad weather, the ship has to leave without them, so she and her brother are forced to fend for themselves on the island. After only a short time her brother dies and she is left all alone. The rest of the book chronicles the many tasks she has to do to survive, such as harvesting abalones and building a shelter. Karana also makes friends with one of the wild dogs who has been injured, and some other creatures. In the end she is rescued, but not until after eighteen years of seclusion.
This is a book for younger readers that’s loosely based on a true story.
I read this book as a child and loved it, so I decided to read it aloud to my boys. I used to imagine what it would be like to live on the island as Karana did, the loneliness that she must have felt, and the importance of her animal companions.
The story also brings up themes of conquest and the struggle of indigenous people to keep what is rightfully theirs. Karana’s people are living peacefully on the island until a group of trappers show up and want to hunt the island’s otter for their pelts. When the tribe refuses to let the trappers take what they want indiscriminately, the trappers think they are justified in killing the tribe’s men and essentially decimating the tribe. This is another story that helped guide my views of right and wrong in my formative years.
It’s a great story of adventure and survival. It also draws in themes of resourcefulness, companionship, loneliness, and the need for others. This story is full of sweetness and sadness, which meld into a perfect blend.
I highly recommend Island of the Blue Dolphins, especially for later elementary-aged kids to teens.
- There is a little bit of violence, such as when Karana’s brother is killed by the wild dogs. Other than that, it’s fairly tame.
Rating: 5 Stars
Until next time…