Island of the Blue Dolphins

By Scott O’Dell; narrated by Tantoo Cardinal

Place: Publisher & Year: Santa Ana, CA : Listening Library, c1960, p2003

Genre: Historical fiction

Format: Audio book

ISBN: 9780307243164

Intended audience: Children – tweens

Number of discs: 4 (about 5 hrs.)

Setting: Ghalas-at (San Nicolas Island, Channel Islands, CA)

Time period: Not stated, but likely early 1800’s

Plot summary: When strangers come to the island to hunt for sea otters, they cause disturbances which will radically alter Karana’s life.  Karana will need to become incredibly self reliant in order to survive.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: Somewhat irregular pacing.  Portions of the story move quite quickly, while others are much more moderate.  The narrator pronounces each word quite clearly; this combined with music between story segments tend to slow down the overall pace of the story.

Characterization: Told in first person through Karana (also known as Wonapalei).  Throughout most of the story, she is the only human character; however, the island is inhabited by many other creatures, some of whom have large roles in the story.

Frame: The island is the frame for this book – both the physical island where Karana lives and Karana, herself, who is cut off from the rest of her people.

Story line: A story of courage, bravery, loneliness, adventure, and the enduring spirit.

Subject headings:

From PCPL:

Indians of North America — Juvenile fiction

Survival — Juvenile fiction

Islands — Juvenile fiction

Talking books for children.

Similar authors: Joseph Bruchac, Michael Dorris, Louise Erdrich, Will Hobbs

Personal notes: This book took me a long time to get through.  I’m not sure if it was just that I wasn’t as interested in listening to the book, or if it was because it’s really a sad story (there are happy parts and exciting parts, but more than a couple sad parts).  It was recommended to me by a very close friend who read it when he was a kid.  If one reads this book as a kid, it probably has a happier ending.  Knowing what I know now about missionaries and the treatment of Natives there, I couldn’t imagine that Karana’s life improved very much once she finally made it off the island…

Other (themes, diversity, websites): Diversity – Native Americans: Nicoleños and Aleuts, Russian, missionaries

Themes –

Friends can be found in the most unlikely places.

Sometimes foolishness can lead to one’s survival.

It is always important to listen to one’s heart.

This book won many awards starting with the Newberry Award in 1961. A list of other awards can been seen here.

This story is based loosely based upon the historical “Lone Woman of San Nicolas”.  More information can be found here.

Scott O’Dell’s website.

Curricular or programming connections: Native American cultures and culture clashes

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