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.
Original publication date
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 did.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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