Island of the Blue Dolphins

By Scott O’Dell,

Book cover of Island of the Blue Dolphins

Book description

Twelve-year-old Karana escapes death at the hands of treacherous hunters, only to find herself totally alone on a harsh desolate island. How she survives in the face of all sorts of dangers makes gripping and inspiring reading.

Based on a true story.

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Why read it?

8 authors picked Island of the Blue Dolphins as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I know, I know, this is fiction, but what a glorious story it is! It resonates with me because it is all about a girl being dazzled by nature, working with it, and surviving.

I first read this book in 3rd grade and loved it. I love the character’s resilience, respect, and perspective. Although the world she lived in was so different from my own, there were so many similarities in approach and so many things to learn. It’s the first book that made me think about what it might be like to live in and with nature. 

This winner of the Newbury Medal is another book that gave me the courage to write a book that includes my own invented tribe. The author, Scott O'Dell, also spent his early years in Southern Calif. as did I and much of the described island flora and fauna is reminiscent of Santa Catalina Island. After hunting for otters Karina's tribe misses the first boat that was to take them back to the mainland. When she misses the second one because of an act of bravery, she is fated to survive many years alone which she does with unimaginable courage…

What twelve-year-old girl could survive alone for years stranded on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Read this book and meet Karana, a member of the Nicoleno Tribe, who does just that. Although largely for young readers, it explores themes of survival, resiliency, and feminism relevant to all ages. I read this with my young daughter several years ago and reread it recently while researching my third novel, which has a girl about that age as a protagonist. It helped me integrate her coming of age into the unusual circumstances of an apocalypse.

From Sid's list on kick-ass women.

Island of the Blue Dolphins is shelved in the children's books Hall of Fame for a reason. Based on a true story, this book is about twelve-year-old Karana, who is stranded on an island and must learn to survive—for years. I loved reading about how Karana learns to find food and make shelter and how she becomes in tune with nature and the sea. What really hits home is that this is a story about forgiveness, a powerful theme that is also the focus of my own book.

From Melissa's list on kids at odds with the sea.

Sometimes the best historical novels are based on long-forgotten incidents. The Island of the Blue Dolphins exists, as once did the young woman who lived there all alone - the last living member of her tribe. This book shows how she created an existence rich in nature and the friendship of animals. Only fiction can truly describe her life, because by the time she was discovered by the Spanish, nobody remained who could speak her language.

Karana is a twelve-year-old girl when she leaps from a ship that has kidnapped her from the only home she has ever known, the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Back on the island, she is alone, and must fend for herself to survive. This is the classic, Newbery-winning girls’ survival tale, and it packs a punch. Karana’s skills in fishing, hunting, and shelter-building are incredible, but her mental fortitude and bravery are her superpowers, and they inspire all who read about them. Author Scot O’Dell’s factual and plain prose are poetically understated and this—along with the fact that it’s based…

From Elizabeth's list on girls with the skills to survive.

This is the classic adventure/survival story—like Robinson Crusoe or The Swiss Family Robinson—but with a girl doing the adventuring. Karana, a native girl left behind when her tribe leaves their island, must take on traditionally male roles and skills in order to survive, showing that many of “gender specific” activities are merely cultural constructs and that girls are just as smart and resourceful and capable as men. The tendency of male ambition to lead to greed, subjugation, and destruction is unflinchingly shown, serving as a warning to young readers to keep such inclinations in check. It is also a powerful…

This gem of historical fiction that won the Newbery Medal sixty years ago tells the story of a Native American girl who survived alone on an island for eighteen years (St. Nicholas Island, 75 miles off the coast of California). O’Dell focuses on the year that Karana is twelve, who tells her own story in unadorned, affecting prose.

From Jenny's list on girls on islands.

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