Island of the Blue Dolphins


When I was a young girl, I fell in love with the book Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.

Often referred to as one of the greatest children’s books ever written, it lives up to the reputation.

The book is based on the true story of a 12-year-old American Indian girl named Karana, who lived in solitude between 1835 and 1853 on San Nicolas Island, about 70 miles off the coast of southern California.

During the evacuation of the island where she lived with her family, this courageous girl jumped ship during the evacuation to stay with her young brother who had been abandoned. He died soon after and Karana was left to fend for herself for the next 18 years.

O’Dell, who won the Newbery Medal in 1961 for the book, tells how Karana forages on the land and in the ocean, clothes herself, protects herself, and secures shelter.

One of my favorite books of all time, I read the story  many, many times as an adolescent.  Karana was everything a young girl wanted to be – brave, smart, resilient, strong. She served as a role model that I could aspire to, even if I didn’t have wild dogs or sea elephants to fight.

The story is so well written, so descriptively – beautifully – told, that you feel like you are there with Karana. You can taste the salt from the ocean in the air, hear the waves as they hit the shore, feel her anguish and fear and grief give way to strength and acceptance.

If you haven’t read the book, make  haste to read it. If you have a child who hasn’t discovered the wonder of the Island of the Blue Dolphins, share this story with them. You’ll both be glad you did.

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