Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chapter Books A to Z: I is for Island of the Blue Dolphins

We had to read Island of the Blue Dolphins when I was in elementary school. I was immediately transfixed and have read it numerous times since.

The story by Scott O'Dell is based on a true story of a girl who lived alone on San Nicholas Island for 18 years before being discovered. In the book, Karana is left behind when the rest of her tribe departs for the mainland after being decimated by the Aleuts. The tribal chief refused to wait for her younger brother to come back to the ship after running off, as storms were approaching. Karana's brother is killed by a pack of wild dogs and she is forced to fend for herself for many years. She has to learn traditional men's roles and how to completely take care of herself. Over the years, she has to fight off wild dogs, hide from more Aleuts and endure the peace and terror of living alone, before finally being "discovered" and brought back to the mainland.

What is so appealing about this book? I think as a child, part of it was the terror of being left behind. How do you fend for yourself? Then there was the historical aspect of it being based on a true story. It was also a very informational book, learning how to build shelters and to make clothing and to hunt. I would imagine what it would be like to be Karana, living by myself on a deserted island.

Scott O'Dell won the Newbery Medal in 1961 for this book. It is a classic that has stood the test of time and should be enjoyed for generations to come.

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