Island of the Blue Dolphins

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Overview

Far off the coast of California looms a harsh rock known as the island of San Nicholas. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otter play in the vast kep beds, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches.

Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone, and this beautifully written novel is her story. It is a romantic adventure filled with drama and heartache, for not only was mere subsistence on so desolate a spot a near ...

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Overview

Far off the coast of California looms a harsh rock known as the island of San Nicholas. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otter play in the vast kep beds, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches.

Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone, and this beautifully written novel is her story. It is a romantic adventure filled with drama and heartache, for not only was mere subsistence on so desolate a spot a near miracle, but Karana had to contend with the ferocious pack of wild dogs that had killed her younger brother, constantly guard against the Aleutian sea otter hunters, and maintain a precarious food supply.

More than this, it is an adventure of the spirit that will haunt the reader long after the book has been put down. Karana's quiet courage, her Indian self-reliance and acceptance of fate, transform what to many would have been a devastating ordeal into an uplifting experience. From loneliness and terror come strength and serenity in this Newbery Medal-winning classic.

In celebration of the book's 50th anniversary, this edition has a stunning new look, and an introduction by Lois Lowry, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Giver and Number the Stars.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1961, this story of Karana, the Indian girl who lived alone for eighteen years on an island off the coast of California, still fascinates young readers. Her survival story-fighting the wild dogs and loneliness, hunting for food, and hoping to be rescued-is spellbinding. 1996 (orig.
From the Publisher
"A haunting and unusual story based on the fact that in the early 1800s an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone on a rocky island far off the coast of California . . . A quiet acceptance of fate characterizes her ordeal." School Library Journal, Starred

"O'Dell tells the miraculous story of how Karana forages on land and in the ocean, clothes herself (in a green-cormorant skirt and an otter cape on special occasions), and secures shelter. Perhaps even more startlingly, she finds strength and serenity living alone on the island. This beautiful edition of Island of the Blue Dolphins is enriched with 12 full-page watercolor paintings by Ted Lewin, illustrator of more than 100 children's books, including Ali, Child of the Desert. A gripping story of battling wild dogs and sea elephants, this simply told, suspenseful tale of survival is also an uplifting adventure of the spirit." Amazon.com

Children's Literature - Maggie Chase
This 50th Anniversary Edition contains the same, beloved, classic story of Karana and her epic adventure of surviving on a Pacific island by herself for 18 years. The difference is that this edition begins with an Introduction by Lois Lowry. In it, Lowry recaps what is known about the real Karana, a woman who came to be known as Juana Maria, although she never answered to that name because she did not share a common language with anyone on the mainland of California. Lowry provides additional details to the Author's Note included in every edition of the book. For example, she tells readers that a Russian American trading company landed on the island of San Nicolas in 1811 to hunt sea otters, possibly setting off a chain reaction of human massacres. She also recounts the many stories or versions of why Karana ended up remaining behind when the rest of her people left on a schooner sponsored by the Santa Barbara Mission. Lowry includes musings and commentary about O'Dell's writing. She wonders at his ability to tell such a rich story with only one human character, and she regrets that she had not asked him a multitude of questions about the craft of his writing while he was still alive. Lowry as well as readers will have to be content with savoring the story itself and letting some of the mysteries and questions behind it remain unanswered. In 1982, O'Dell established the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, whose annual $5,000 prize is given to recognize meritorious work published for children or young adults. Reviewer: Maggie Chase
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
This beautiful edition commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the book's original publication in 1960. A welcome addition is the introduction by Lois Lowry, providing background on the historical events which inspired this story, and some thoughtful questions about O'Dell's interpretation of those events. Although this was O'Dell's first YA novel, it garnered him the Newbery Medal and he went on to receive the Hans Christian Andersen medal for his body of work. Readers meet 12-year-old Karana, the sole survivor of a tribe of indigenous people inhabiting a remote island about seventy miles southwest of Santa Barbara. After otter hunters and wild dogs kill off most of her people, Karana becomes self-sufficient and protects herself against wild animals, the weather, and potential intruders. Karana first tries to kill and then befriends Rantu, the leader of the dog pack, who becomes her beloved companion. This opens the door to her shifting view of all the animals on the island as more than just food, but spiritual beings with whom she may live in harmony. When at last Karana is rescued from the island and taken to the mission in Santa Barbara, she remains alone, because no one is alive who understands her language. It is a touching story of resilience and determination in the face of astounding obstacles. This new edition can foster rediscovery of a compelling character and enhance social science lessons about indigenous peoples, the role of missionaries in colonization, and California history. Readers will be impressed by Karana's strength, resourcefulness and her survival skills. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547328614
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 2/8/2010
  • Edition description: 50th Anniversary Edition
  • Pages: 177
  • Sales rank: 794
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott O’Dell (1898–1989), one of the most respected authors of historical fiction, received the Newbery Medal, three Newbery Honor Medals, and the Hans Christian Andersen Author Medal, the highest international recognition for a body of work by an author of books for young readers. Some of his many books include The Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Road to Damietta, Sing Down the Moon, and The Black Pearl.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
I remember the day the Aleut ship came to our island. At first it seemed like a small shell afloat on the sea. Then it grew larger and was a gull with folded wings. At last in the rising sun it became what it really was—a red ship with two red sails.
   My brother and I had gone to the head of a canyon that winds down to a little harbor which is called Coral Cove. We had gone to gather roots that grow there in the spring.
   My brother Ramo was only a little boy half my age, which was twelve. He was small for one who had lived so many suns and moons, but quick as a cricket. Also foolish as a cricket when he was excited. For this reason and because I wanted him to help me gather roots and not go running off , I said nothing about the shell I saw or the gull with folded wings.
   I went on digging in the brush with my pointed stick as though nothing at all were happening on the sea. Even when I knew for sure that the gull was a ship with two red sails.
   But Ramo’s eyes missed little in the world. They were black like a lizard’s and very large and, like the eyes of a lizard, could sometimes look sleepy. This was the time when they saw the most. This was the way they looked now. They were half-closed, like those of a lizard lying on a rock about to flick out its tongue to catch a fly.
   "The sea is smooth," Ramo said. "It is a flat stone without any scratches."
   My brother liked to pretend that one thing was another.
   "The sea is not a stone without scratches," I said. "It is water and no waves."
   "To me it is a blue stone," he said. "And far away on the edge of it is a small cloud which sits on the stone."
   "Clouds do not sit on stones. On blue ones or black ones or any kind of stones."
   "This one does."
   "Not on the sea," I said. "Dolphins sit there, and gulls, and cormorants, and otter, and whales too, but not clouds."
   "It is a whale, maybe."
   Ramo was standing on one foot and then the other, watching the ship coming, which he did not know was a ship because he had never seen one. I had never seen one either, but I knew how they looked because I had been told.
   "While you gaze at the sea," I said, "I dig roots. And it is I who will eat them and you who will not."
   Ramo began to punch at the earth with his stick, but as the ship came closer, its sails showing red through the morning mist, he kept watching it, acting all the time as if he were not.
   "Have you ever seen a red whale?" he asked.
   "Yes," I said, though I never had.
   "Those I have seen are gray."
   "You are very young and have not seen everything that swims in the world."
   Ramo picked up a root and was about to drop it into the basket. Suddenly his mouth opened wide and then closed again.
   "A canoe!" he cried. "A great one, bigger than all of our canoes together. And red!"
   A canoe or a ship, it did not matter to Ramo. In the very next breath he tossed the root in the air and was gone, crashing through the brush, shouting as he went.
   I kept on gathering roots, but my hands trembled as I dug in the earth, for I was more excited than my brother. I knew that it was a ship there on the sea and not a big canoe, and that a ship could mean many things. I wanted to drop the stick and run too, but I went on digging roots because they were needed in the village. By the time I filled the basket, the Aleut ship had sailed around the wide kelp bed that encloses our island and between our two rocks that guard Coral Cove. Word of its coming had already reached the village of Ghalas-at. Carrying their weapons, our men sped along the trail which winds down to the shore. Our women were gathering at the edge of the mesa.
   I made my way through the heavy brush and, moving swiftly, down the ravine until I came to the sea cliff s. There I crouched on my hands and knees. Below me lay the cove. The tide was out and the sun shone on the white sand of the beach. Half the men from our village stood at the water’s edge. The rest were concealed among the rocks at the foot of the trail, ready to attack the intruders should they prove unfriendly.
   As I crouched there in the toyon bushes, trying not to fall over the cliff , trying to keep myself hidden and yet to see and hear what went on below me, a boat left the ship. Six men with long oars were rowing. Their faces were broad, and shining dark hair fell over their eyes. When they came closer I saw that they had bone ornaments thrust through their noses.
   Behind them in the boat stood a tall man with a yellow beard. I had never seen a Russian before, but my father had told me about them, and I wondered, seeing the way he stood with his feet set apart and his fists on his hips and looked at the little harbor as though it already belonged to him, if he were one of those men from the north whom our people feared. I was certain of it when the boat slid in to the shore and he jumped out, shouting as he did so.
   His voice echoed against the rock walls of the cove. The words were strange, unlike any I had ever heard. Slowly then he spoke in our tongue.
   "I come in peace and wish to parley," he said to the men on the shore.
   None of them answered, but my father, who was one of those hidden among the rocks, came forward down the sloping beach. He thrust his spear into the sand.
   "I am the Chief of Ghalas-at," he said. "My name is Chief Chowig."
   I was surprised that he gave his real name to a stranger. Everyone in our tribe had two names, the real one which was secret and was seldom used, and one which was common, for if people use your secret name it becomes worn out and loses its magic. Thus I was known as Won-a-pa-lei, which means The Girl with the Long Black Hair, though my secret name is Karana. My father’s secret name was Chowig. Why he gave it to a stranger I do not know.
   The Russian smiled and held up his hand, calling himself Captain Orlov. My father also held up his hand. I could not see his face, but I doubted that he smiled in return.
   "I have come with forty of my men," said the Russian. "We come to hunt sea otter. We wish to camp on your island while we are hunting."
   My father said nothing. He was a tall man, though not so tall as Captain Orlov, and he stood with his bare shoulders thrown back, thinking about what the Russian had said. He was in no hurry to reply because the Aleuts had come before to hunt otter. That was long in the past, but my father still remembered them.
   "You remember another hunt," Captain Orlov said when my father was silent. "I have heard of it, too. It was led by Captain Mitriff who was a fool and is now dead. The trouble arose because you and your tribe did all of the hunting."
   "We hunted," said my father, "but the one you call a fool wished us to hunt from one moon to the next, never ceasing."
   "This time you will need to do nothing," Captain Orlov said. "My men will hunt and we will divide the catch. One part for you, to be paid in goods, and two parts for us."
   "The parts must be equal," my father said.
   Captain Orlov gazed off toward the sea. "We can talk of that later when my supplies are safe ashore," he replied.
   This morning was fair with little wind, yet it was the season of the year when storms could be looked for, so I understood why the Russian wished to move onto our island.
   "It is better to agree now," said my father.
   Captain Orlov took two long steps away from my father, then turned and faced him. "One part to you is fair since the work is ours and ours the risk."
   My father shook his head.
   The Russian grasped his beard. "Since the sea is not yours, why do I have to give you any part?"
   "The sea which surrounds the Island of the Blue Dolphins belongs to us," answered my father.
   He spoke softly as he did when he was angry.
   "From here to the coast of Santa Barbara—twenty leagues away?"
   "No, only that which touches the island and where the otter live."
   Captain Orlov made a sound in his throat. He looked at our men standing on the beach and toward those who had now come from behind the rocks. He looked at my father and shrugged his shoulders. Suddenly he smiled, showing his long teeth.
   "The parts shall be equal," he said.
   He said more, but I did not hear it, for at that instant in my great excitement I moved a small rock, which clattered down the cliff and fell at his feet. Everyone on the beach looked up. Silently I left the toyon bushes and ran without stopping until I reached the mesa.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 887 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 888 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2007

    Never forgot the story!

    I read this book when I was in 4th grade. That was 15 years ago and I still remember the story from beginning to end. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading and the knowledge that can be gained from it.

    59 out of 68 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2008

    Forever will be a classic

    I remember reading Island of the Blue Dolphins when I was eleven. Recently I found my old copy, dusted it off, and started from the beginning. I could not put the book down. It was just as fresh to me as it was twenty-five years earlier. This is a book all ages can enjoy. I'm looking forward to reading it to my daughter in a few years. Scott O' Dell beautifully created a strong female protagonist that figured out a way to survive against the odds.

    38 out of 42 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2000

    I recomend this book!

    Island of the Blue Dolphins is a very good book. I love books that have the ocean in them. The book tells the story of a girl named Karona. She is left on the island for 18 years. While she is waiting for a ship to come get her she must build shelter, gather and hunt food, and fight her enemies the wild dogs. I thought this book would be a regular old book with a beggining, middle, and an end. I sure was wrong! Karona even befriended a wild dog! I recomend this book for ages 9 and up. If you are younger than 9, and you like true stories you will enjoy this book.

    30 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    "It was the blue dolphins that brought her home..." Well, I wish they had taken me away from this awful book too...

    I often wonder why in the world certain books have won the prized golden sticker, aka, for all of you out there that dont know what i am talking about, the Newberry. the Oscars of the book world, minus the red carpet. Criss Cross is in my opinion, the best newberry ever, right up there with Holes and The Tale of Desperaux. The worst, is the blasted Witch of Blackbird Pond and...this one. This whole book, a Robinson Crusoe/Castaway tale of an Indian girl who is living alone at an island for 18 years, is mostly a tell book...the character, Karana, has no emotion, no feeling whatsoever. This is mostly what i hated about this novel. It's approx 200 pages felt like 2,000 pages becuase of how dull and lackluster it was. No emotion, no feeling. You would think the poor girl would be heartbroken, no? Well, she isnt at all. Every chapter is her making a speat or sewing a skirt or sailing down the river. This gets very dull after 100 pages of it. I was bored to death, sadly.
    Content....everything is okey dokey. No sex or language. There is some mild violence and thematic elements.
    This could have been such a great novel. But This book lacked depth, and the most important ingredient in every children's book...a little spice called feeling. without that one thing, everything else just comes out tasteless and burnt.

    **Thanks for reading my review! Please mark it as helpful and check out my other reviews! Thanks so much and God bless!**

    24 out of 81 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Definitely Recommended

    Author Scott O'Dell tells the story of Karana, an Indian girl living alone on the Island of Blue Dolphins. It is a fantastic story of survival as we travel with Karana on her quest to survive, forge for food, clothe herself, and seek shelter on the beautiful island. A very good read. Definitely recommended. Perfect for passing the time.

    20 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    One of the reasons I love historical fiction!

    My favorite book from childhood, based on the true story of a young American-Indian marooned on a deserted island for 18 years. Her resourcefulness, strength and keen observation of nature make this book a must read! Enjoyable for all ages!

    13 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2012

    This is the BEST BOOK EVER BEST BOOK EVER!

    This book is about a Indian Princess who was left behind when the rest of her village left after a terrible tragidy toke thelives of many of the braves (men) inclouding her father the chief. She learn how to survive on her own wether she is rescued from the island is for you to find out. Injoy the book I know I did. Island of The Blue Dolfins is a very good book for teenagers, young adults, and kids. This is a book with no bad language curseing swearing or anything that a parent would not approve of there kid reading, I myself being a

    10 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    An amazing book !

    10 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2011

    Dont give it a bad rating!!!!!!!!!!!!

    To people who say this book is bad STOP IT NOW. Anyhow this book is so great i had to say that

    9 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2011

    OMG I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It was a really fun true story this girl has to survive by herself on a island for 18 years I absoulutely LOVE IT !!!!!! please read it it is totally whorth it

    8 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2012

    Um.....

    I had chosen this book to read for school and i compleatly regreted it i was forgeting what i was reading! But by the time i was inn the middle it was ok but not a real page turner so i recommend this to ppl who really x5 like reading

    5 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2012

    Awesome

    I love this book. It is one of the best books ive ever read and I have read a lot of books!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    loveit

    this book is amazing read it please you will love and im 11

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2010

    Excellent

    It was a good book. I enjoyed it a lot. Every word I read I became more intrigued into the story.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2013

    A great book

    This book ims amazing!! Highly suggested!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2013

    Island of the blue dolphins

    I ? this book. It is about a girl who gets left on an island alone and must survive.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    AMAZOI AMAZING BOOK

    I could not put this book down

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2012

    Uggg

    I have to read this book for school and disliked it feel asleep teice ehile reading it

    3 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2012

    Dumb

    I had to read this stupid book at school but it was kinda good

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    Island of blue dolphins

    I love i you need to read this.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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