Title: Island of the Blue Dolphins
Author: Scott O’Dell
Major Themes: California, Indians, Survival
Synopsis: When she was left behind on an island off the coast of California, a young girl had to learn how to survive on her own.
Island of the Blue Dolphins is an amazing account of survival. I remember reading it when I was fairly young; a neighbor gave us a box full of books, and the copy I have today was from that box. The first time I wanted to read it to my children, my mom gave me this copy. It’s getting pretty tattered now, but we still enjoy it!
Karana was a young girl living with her family on an island off the coast of California. Their peaceful life was disturbed by the coming of Aleuts and a Russian man who wanted to trap the sea otters who lived in the kelp beds around the island, for their furs. In a battle, the Aleut killed most of the men of the village, so the tribe moved to the mainland—except for Karana and her little brother.
Karana soon found herself alone, and for many years she had to support and protect herself. The account of how she found food and built a shelter for herself is amazing, as well as how she dealt with the wild dogs on the island.
My boys always love hearing this book, although the scene in which Karana’s brother was killed by the wild dogs really disturbed my 6-year-old, who couldn’t understand why dogs would do that. One thing I liked, reading it this time, was watching Karana change from her many years of loneliness. Her perspective of enemies changed, and she learned how valuable companionship, both human and animal, was. The way she survived her conflict with nature was inspiring. One scene we could really relate to was when a massive earthquake rocked her world.
WARNING: A battle was fought in chapter 4, in which many men from the village were killed by the Aleut. In chapter 8, Karana’s brother was killed by wild dogs. In chapter 19, an octopus is called a devilfish. In chapter 20, Karana was exploring a cave and came across skeletons of her ancestors.
Listening Level—Ages 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above
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