Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Island of the Blue Dolphins

I remember when my children read Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. It was many years ago but I still remember that my daughter cried while my oldest son tried not to cry. So I remember it as a sad book because a dog dies.

It is much more than that. This book was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1961. I was only eight years old and I wonder why (or if) I did not read the book. This was published in a time of women's liberation in the United States. I don't know that I would say that liberation is what this book is about, but certainly Karana moved outside female cultural roles as she survived alone on an island off the coast of California.

The book is based on the life of a real woman who lived alone on the island of San Nicolas from 1835 to 1853. She was named Juana Maria by a priest who was with her when she died only seven weeks after she was rescued by George Nidever. She is buried at the Santa Barbara Mission in California. To learn more, click HERE.

In Island of the Blue Dolphins, our heroine Karana stays behind on her island after the Aleuts killed many of the men of her tribe and the others had left on a large ship. She stayed because she could not find her brother on the ship. After her brother's traumatic death, Karana lives alone on the island. O'Dell uses imagery to help the reader visualize how Karana takes care of herself and the island. A strong girl, Karana does what she must do to survive. In the end, she has experienced joy and sorrow on the island. I liked the story and feel the students would as well.

TITLE: Island of the Blue Dolphins
AUTHOR: Scott O'Dell
PAGES: 184
TYPE: fiction
RECOMMEND: I would recommend this to Middle School children who are naturalists (no matter what your definition) or for girls who need to learn that they can do anything they wish to do.

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