Take TV's Survivor and Fear Factor, Hollywood's Cast Away, and the books Robinson Caruso and Call of the Wild, . . . wrap them all together . . . make them SO MUCH better (in my opinion!) and what do you have? The classic book by Scott O'Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins.
Many of you may have already read this book, as it's a Newbery Medal-winning classic. The author, Scott O'Dell, wrote for adults for 26 years before publishing his first children's novel. That first novel was Island of the Blue Dolphins. And I can see why it's a classic.
I was expecting to write a scholarly “Now kids, it's important to read your classics” book review, but after reading the book, I totally have to revise my approach. Now it's “Read this book because it's totally awesome!”
The story takes place in the 1800s (but you would never be able to tell because the book feels timeless) and is about Karana, an Indian girl who lives with her tribe on a small island off the coast of California. When Aleutian sea hunters come and kill most of her tribe, the remaining members eventually decide to move to the mainland. As they are sailing away, Karana sees that the tribe has left her brother behind on the island. She begs the ship to turn back, but they don't, so she jumps overboard to go back to him. She and her brother are left alone on the island.
They struggle for survival, but her brother is eaten by a pack of wild dogs. Now Karana is completely alone on the island. Many suns and many moons pass. She has to learn how to fend for herself, battle the loneliness and despair, and basically just . . . survive. She builds a canoe to escape the island. (Does it work? You'll have to read the book!)
Karana is amazingly resourceful. Since she has no light, she hangs silvery fish to reflect the firelight at night so she can work. She builds a “house” from whale ribs and makes her own clothes and weapons. These are only a few of the many amazing things she does — and they all had my head spinning.
I almost ached for Karana's loneliness reading this book. Something in it touched my most basic level of humanity and made me want to read more. It was devastating, refreshing, and uplifting all at the same time. (I finished this book in two days, and I'm sure many people have done it in one!)
I hope I'm not over-promising, but this is one of the best books I've read in a while. No wonder it was named one of the best children's books of the past 200 years (by the Children's Literature Association).
Have YOU read Island of the Blue Dolphins? Let me know what you think. Or tell me what your other favorite classics are. I might be on a classics groove now, thanks to this book!
— Ratha, STACKS Writer