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Book Review of Island of the Blue Dolphins

Island of the Blue Dolphins
cathyskye avatar reviewed on + 2260 more book reviews

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 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.