Island of the Blue Dolphins
illustrated by Ted Lewin
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990
FORMAT: Historical Fiction, Adventure, Newbery Award
AGES: Elementary School
This is the story of Karana, a girl who lived on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. When some hunters come to hunt the otters that live near her island, her people hope that they will be fair and pay the village for them. But instead they kill a large majority of the men who were trying to stand up for themselves and their people. Nervous of the possibility that the men might come back, those that are left in the village leave on a ship to go to another land. However, Karana jumps off the ship because her younger brother was left behind. The ship leaves without them. All too soon her brother is killed by the pack of wild dogs and Karana is left all alone on the island. She has to learn how to hunt, build herself a home, and survive the solitude. Eventually she decides to leave her island when another ship comes along (18 years later).
I had a lot of friends that read this book when I was in elementary school…but I never did. I love how it is a survival story about a strong girl. Seriously, this girl can do just about anything. But it is somewhat of a sad story for me. I don’t love being by myself. I like having people around. (Even if we aren’t talking to each other, I prefer to do things like read or write when I am in the same room as someone else.) So the idea of this girl being forced to be by herself for that long, it just makes my heart ache. I know that a lot of the young girls I talked to about this book liked the adventures she had or how clever she was. And she was. But I just had a hard time getting past how lonely that would be. I would never wish loneliness on anyone, let alone a girl who would have to endure it for so long. I did love the courage that it must have taken to get the devil fish, or tame a wild dog, or conquer her fears of the strangers that kept coming to her island. She is an inspirational character…I just am glad I never had to walk in her shoes.
Book Discussion Questions:Why did Karana jump off the ship? Would you have jumped off in her place?
Did Karana’s view of people or animals change over the course of the book? Why or why not?
If you had to survive on the Island of the Blue Dolphins, what would you be good at doing? What would you need to learn how to do?
Why didn’t Karana kill Rontu when she had a chance?
What would you do if you had an island to yourself? What would you be most excited about doing if you knew nobody would be there watching?