Karana lives alone on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. The rest of her tribe escaped on a ship, but Karana had to stay behind to care for her little brother. This is short-lived, however; it is not long before the little brother wanders into trouble yet again and this time he is devoured by wild dogs.
Karana is now truly alone. Quite unexpectedly, she captures and befriends the leader of the wild dogs. The rest of the book tells the story of her struggles with dangers on the island, including the elements and the arrival of foreigners, and her struggles with loneliness during her many years on the island.
For me, it was the moment in the book where Karana befriends her brother’s killer that makes the book leap into excellence, into becoming Newbery-worthy.