July 2, 2009

Book Review: Island of the Blue Dolphins

Posted by at 8:10 am in Reads | Permalink

Islandofthebluedolphins_130 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

  1. Mark

    To the author, she hangs to fish and burns them as lanterns. Not to reflect firelight. She uses shiny seashells to reflect sunlight to keep the seagulls from eating her food, however.

  2. doggydude2001

    i just read it last night!Its really good,i read it for BATTLE OF THE BOOKS,5/6 year 2011 to 2012.i love ranto the dog and how the author scott o dell wrote the book

  3. Erykah

    This book is a 6 on a scale from 1-10. I am reading it in my fifth grade class. I like that it is a true story, but in parts it won’t never get to its point. I think that Karana should have swam fast to get Ramo and got back on the ship.

  4. warrior-catgirl

    OK. I don’t mean to burst your bubble but I HATE THIS BOOK!!!! I HATE HATE HATE HATE IT!!!!!! I just thought it was boring but everyone loves it and it is sooo frustrating! UGH!!!

  5. bookgoat5

    I read this book earlier this year and it was really good. I couldn’t imagine being alone on an island for that long. Anyway, this book is a very good read. Loved it!!!

  6. Brainiac27

    My teacher resed the book 2 our class n 4th grade. I remember it was so exciting. We couldnt wait till it was time 2 read.LUV the book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. readingkangaroo

    I read this book for this year’s summer reading program at my school. I thought it would just be a boring, old book. But I LOVED it!!! You should read it too!

  8. lucca4

    I read that book in 4th grade…so good! There’s a sequel, too, about one of Karana’s descendants. It’s called “Zia” (I know book titles don’t go in quotes, but I can’t italicize :-) ).

  9. Xepher

    It was a great book! I read it in the fourth grade and loved it and I–the only one in my classroom–that actually understood it. Not that it was a hard read, but certain understanding of it. It was GREAT!! I think there’s a second book to it but in another view, maybe her neice? Forgot, but anyways it’s a must-read!

  10. Cookiecream

    I love the book! I remember when I read the book in 3rd grade. But the funny thing is I read it before my class started it! I’m homeschooled so we started it and I already knew the book and everything! ROFL!! I read after 3rd grade and kep going on with it and then in like 4th grade we read it. WOOHOO! i hope we read it again!

  11. Livia

    I remember I read that book a few years while I was waiting for the dentist. I had gotten it for Christmas that year( I had asked for it because we read the first chapter in school) and I reread it last year… I need to finish this so I can rereread it!! :)

  12. maggie

    Great book ! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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