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.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman

Shen of the Sea: Chinese Stories for Children by Arthur Bowie Chrisman. illustrated by Else Hasselriis

Pages: 221 pages
Ages: 8+
Finished: Mar. 31, 2010
First Published: 1925
Publisher: E.P. Dutton
Genre: short stories, folktales
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

"A shamelessly rainy day, my honorable Brother Chi."

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my 9yo son. We always have a book of folktales, fairy tales, myths, etc. on the go, reading one story every school day.

Comments: I have read this book once before to myself some time ago, as an adult, and came away with the impression that it was OK (maybe 3 stars) but now I think I've found out the problem with that first reading. This book is meant to be read aloud! The stories are told in a storyteller voice that just rolls off the tongue when reading out loud and brings them gloriously to life. The stories are hilarious and I can't say that my ds or I didn't like even a single one the tales. I'm not convinced these are traditional Chinese stories (I've read a lot of folktales in my life and never heard any of these before) but would guess that Chrisman wrote them himself based on the style of Chinese tales. The tales often rely on repetition, some are origin stories and they cover a wide spectrum of characters from peasants to princesses and Kings. A number of the stories are about someone who is not too bright or is incredibly lazy or stubborn. While the great majority of tales are folktales a few pass over into fairytale territory with the appearance of a few dragons and other Chinese mythical creatures. Every single time this book came out my son's face lit up, he thoroughly enjoyed it! I also had a ton of fun reading it. This book has a habit of getting mixed reviews and to those who give it low ratings, I ask you to read aloud a couple of stories to a child or group of children. Then see if you don't change your mind! I've found in my 21 years as a mother that some children's books just beg to be read aloud and don't do the trick when read silently. The only thing I'm not too keen on are the silhouette illustrations. Yes, they add to the ethnicity of the book but detailed drawings would have been more fun to look at.