Island of the Blue Dolphins

by Scott O'Dell

Paperback, 1987



Left alone on a beautiful but isolated island off the coast of California, a young Indian girl spends eighteen years, not only merely surviving through her enormous courage and self-reliance, but also finding a measure of happiness in her solitary life.

Library's rating


½ (2887 ratings; 3.9)

Media reviews

Based on actual events, this is an adventure story of an Indian girl living on the island of San Nicolas off the California coast. With her adaptability and resilience, she survived alone on the island for eighteen years. Some cultural information on island lifeways is included. Illustrated with
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twelve full-page watercolors.
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2 more
Saturday Review
Convincing and beautifully written. A fact-based manages to have warmth and suspense.
Horn Book
Years of research must have gone into this book to turn historical fact into so moving and lasting an experience.

User reviews

LibraryThing member cathyskye
First Line: I remember the day the Aleut ship came to our island.

I'm not quite sure how I missed this one growing up. With a 1960 copyright date, it was certainly around when I was young, but somehow it got lost in the shuffle, and I never read it. I've now corrected that oversight, and I'm glad I
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In the Pacific Ocean, there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Blue dolphins, sea elephants, birds, otters... wildlife is abundant there. When the strangers come in their red-sailed ship, Karana's father reluctantly gives them permission to fish and to hunt for otters in their waters, but their hunting comes to a bad end. Not long afterward, a ship comes for Karana's people, and they gather their belongings and climb aboard. When Karana sees that her little brother is left behind on the island, she jumps ship and swims back.

Unfortunately Karana soon finds herself all alone on the island. She spends year after year there, but this isn't a tale merely of survival, it's a story of a girl who truly appreciates the natural world surrounding her. My eyes were riveted to the page as she built herself shelter, a canoe, fought off wild dogs, and explored the island. An author's note in the back told me that this story was based on fact, and that explanation made the book even more special.

I can see why this book is a Newbery Medal winner. Island of the Blue Dolphins has a wonderful setting and a character into whom we can all project ourselves. It wasn't just Karana building a shelter or trying to outsmart the wild dogs-- I was, too. When I finished the last page, I had to sit quietly and let the sea breeze calm and the vision of a fish-shaped island sunning itself in the sea quietly fade away.
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LibraryThing member ctpress
I love survival-stories a la Robinson Crusoe - and actually this one is loosely based on a true story - about the girl Karana who for many years have to survive on a small remote island in the Pacific after being left there by a mistake as her tribe had been rescued of the island after being
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attacked by Aleuts.

Karana have a strong will and is very resourceful. It’s a fascinating account of her survival - how she manages to obtain and prepare food and shelter - and find animal friends to keep her company.
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LibraryThing member edtech5
O'Dell, S. (1967) Island of the Blue Dolphins. Oxford: Heinemann
Island of the Blue Dolphins is a story of survival. What makes this book unique is that it is based on the true story of a Native American woman who was stranded on an island off the California coast from 1835 to 1853. This book is a
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suitable reading for grades 5 through 7, and makes an excellent choice for a language arts novel selection. A positive aspect of this story for young readers is the continuous theme of forgiveness and trust. Another novel written in this decade was "A Wrinkle in Time," by Madeleine L'Engle
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LibraryThing member seashell8
This was a wonderful book. Scott O'Dell was one of the first authors that I really got into when I was little. His books helped me fall in love with reading, and they will always be considered my favorites.
LibraryThing member lecowan
In this Contemporary Realistic Fiction book, a young Native American girl is living alone on her island in the middle of the ocean. When she was around twelve-years-old, her tribe leaves the island on a “white man’s” ship and leaves her brother and herself on the island. During the course of
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the book, she realizes that this ship will never return for her and she learns how to hunt and provide for herself and her many animals. At the end of the book, the girl is rescued by some different white men and is taken to civilization.

I thought this story was rather depressing. The girl in this story does not ever seem to have anything good happen to her or her family members (including pets). My eleven-year-old daughter read this book before I did and loved it. I do think this story is a good one about being able to provide for ones’ self and how durable the human body and mind really is.

To use this book in the classroom, I would introduce it in a unit on islands and island living. There are many good points in this book on how the girl survives each season on the island. This would also be a good story for children to read about sea animals as it discusses many of them.
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LibraryThing member melissafourroux
This contemporary realistic fiction book shows just how a young girl could survive on her own with just the natural environment to surround her. The story starts off with a Native American girl named Karana who lives with her family tribe on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. There is conflict over
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the "white man's" greed and soon a battle entails between Karana's tribe and the "white men." She is left alone to take care of herself all the while waiting to see if anyone will come for her. This story shows Karana's determination and her capability as a strong young woman to fend for herself.

My 5th grade son came home with this book as a class novel reading assignment. We would read along together and talk about the significant events that happened in the chapter. He had a really hard time getting past Karana's father dying in the first few chapters, but overall I think he enjoyed the book.

I would probably read this book with my class to be able to discuss those "deep" issues that may tend to bring emotion and cause questions to be raised. This would be a great book to discuss survival techniques. You could assign small groups with specific islands and have them research the weather, habitat and vegetation in that area and have them present it to the rest of the class to discuss survival chances in different regions of the world. You could also have them keep a journal to record entries after you have read each chapter to them to record questions or maybe even emotions that Karana might have been feeling at that particular time in the story.
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LibraryThing member jshillingford
Even years after reading it, I still remember how this book resonated with me. The story of a young girl left alone on an island when her people are relocated seems so simple. However, the story is much deeper than that. She must find food, shelter, create tools - in short she must survive. After
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reading this I finally understood the phrase, "triumph of the human spirit." She triumphed, and imagined all the things I could accomplish if she could do that. Everyone should read this book, old and young. A true classic, in every sense of the word.
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LibraryThing member KristenZ
I went through a stage that I re-read all the books that I was required to read in grammer school. This one was so different now that I'm older, there are so many details that I didn't realize I misse dthe first time!
LibraryThing member chichyJakMysz
Hehe, a book I've rather out-grown but had to include for sentimental reasons... This is the first novel that really hung on to me emotionally after I finished it back in elementary school or middle school.
LibraryThing member kawgirl
I read this when I was quite young. It is a story of strength, survival, and just how resourceful a young Native American can be even when left all on her own. Images conjured up by reading this book are still in my head.
LibraryThing member sparklegirl
The story of a young girl (I forget her name) who is forced to live alone on an island using nature alone to survive
LibraryThing member EleanorR
A very interesting story about a young women who lives on a island with her tribe on a island. One day there village is forced to move from the island and she is accidently left behind on the island because she goes back for her brother who missed the boat. She and her brother must live on the
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island where there a mad dogs on the island and then she has do deal with a terrible tragic thing. This was a pretty good book about survial
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LibraryThing member bottomsdream64
This book tells the dramatic story of a girl, alone on an island, that has to survive. Can she do it? Find out. A highly recommended read.
LibraryThing member bibliophile26
A Newbery Award winning book from the 1960's, the book tells a story of an Indian girl who survives alone on an island for almost 20 years. The things the girl is able to do are amazing (like fighting a pack of wild dogs) and what is even more amazing is that the book was based on a true story. I
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couldn't make it a week on an island alone; I'm not outdoorsy or handy and am too used to my creature comforts, like air conditioning.
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LibraryThing member Mluke04
This is a good example of historical fiction because there really was an island in the pacific and the people there were taken to the east on a ship. In the Author's Note, O'Dell presents the history that he based his book upon. There was a girl who lived alone on the island from 1835-1853. She was
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taken to the Santa Barbara Mission and is buried near there.
The plot in this book contains person-vs-nature conflict. Karana has to learn to live and survive alone on the island. She has to gather food, protect herself, and somehow get off the island to find her people. As the story progresses the conflict builds and Karana learns to adapt. The conflict is resolved in the end. This shows that Island of the Blue Dolphins has a good plot.
Media: Not illistrated
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LibraryThing member 1DomesticTerrorist
My class and I read half of this and then we stopped so I'll just start at the begining.
LibraryThing member alice443
This book is based on real events, this is the story of Karana, a young Indian girl who lives on the Island of the Blue Dolphins, really the Island San Nicolas. In the story Karana her brother were left marooned on this island when all the villagers left. Time passes as Karana struggles to survive
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on her own. It is a beautiful story, but very sad.
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LibraryThing member MsNikki
Sad story taken from the point of view of the indigenous people, when the Old World meets new. Read it on Columbus Day.
LibraryThing member r13
The Newbery Award winning story of the young woman left alone on the Island for many years is written in a sparse and simple style, conveying the simple life of islanders. The story is about the development of strength of character in the face of tremendous stress. The young woman actually knew a
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great deal of what was required to stay alive, but she was trained to not use it. It was the job of the men to hunt and fish. It was the job of the women to stay in the huts. The effort it takes to overcome the social conditioning and become a successful hunter shows her literally breaking from tradition and expecting the gods to destroy her at any moment.
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LibraryThing member JR19
Good book for the people who enjoyed The Cay or Hetchat. It is about the girl who left in the island alone for many years.
LibraryThing member MrsLee
This is the first of many Scott O'Dell books I have read. A young Native American girl is stranded on an island off of California in the days when Spanish monasteries were being built. She must find a way to survive not only physically, but also the depths of despair and loneliness. Compelling
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writing, I felt as if I was living her life as I read.
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LibraryThing member jshillingford
Even years after reading it, I still remember how this book resonated with me. The story of a young girl left alone on an island when her people are relocated seems so simple. However, the story is much deeper than that. She must find food, shelter, create tools - in short she must survive. After
Show More
reading this I finally understood the phrase, "triumph of the human spirit." She triumphed, and I imagined all the things I could accomplish if she could do that. Everyone should read this book, old and young. A true classic, in every sense of the word.

This hardcover edition is especially beautiful, and I think the best presentation of the novel I have seen. The book has several full-page, full color illustrations throughout that will help even a reluctant reader get into the story. They are done in the same artistic style as the image on the cover. The illustrations, combined with a sturdy binding and a lovely dark blue dust jacket make for a collector quality publication. Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member meki
THis book is about a girl who lives on an island all alone. I really liked this book and enjoyed it thoroughly.
LibraryThing member goodnightmoon
Having just read Hatchet and Julie of the Wolves, I expected an internal story detailing the narrator's struggles to survive and grapple with tragic external events. I was continually surprised to hear the unfolding of the story told with little emotion and much practicality. It was refreshing, as
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well as realistic - someone raised on an island, with survival the foremost goal, would be practical and unsentimental. Absent here was the struggle to figure out fishing and gathering and protection. This girl is strong, competent, and therefore admirable. An enjoyable story with a great narrator. (Incidentally - its long descriptive scenes sometimes made my thoughts drift, thus accounting for my rating.)
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LibraryThing member lorsomething
I read this one as a child and immediately imagined myself marooned on an island for years. I made my own moccasins and fashioned my own weapons and played at being Karana. This book has quite a lesson to teach about character, but it does it without preaching. Excellent!!


Yearling (1987), Paperback, 192 pages

Original publication date





0440439884 / 9780440439882


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