Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins is one of those books that I read back in grade school or middle school. I think we may have actually read it for a class, because I remember watching a movie version in class, which was usually a treat for after we’d read the book…and I vaguely remember some discussion on the book. Or I could totally be making that up. But Island of the Blue Dolphins was definitely one of those books that really stuck with me.
So when I saw it on the shelf over at the Dollar bookstore, I snapped it up! And if rereading it counted towards the Read Me Baby, 1 More Time challenge—Bonus!!!!
It’s been a loooooong time since I've read or reread Island of the Blue Dolphins. I had vague memories of a survival-esque adventure—a girl alone on an island; hunting, finding food, making a shelter. And another hazy memory of the book being based on a true story, which always seems to make any story seem that much richer and intense, because it could really have happened.
Island of the Blue Dolphins tells the story of Karana, a Native American girl, living on an island off the coast of California in the 1800s. When Karana and her people are leaving the island, Karana realizes her brother Ramo isn’t with them—He’s still on the island. Karana asks everyone to wait while she goes back for Ramo; then she jumps ship, swimming back to shore to find him. But there is a storm, and the ships, unable to wait, leave without Karana and her brother Ramo.
Island of the Blue Dolphins is a thin book and a quick read, but I think this story was much harder to read as an adult. Karana, for the most part is very upbeat and determined to persevere despite all her misfortunes and obstacles. My younger self was much more interested in the sense of adventure and the idea of having a deserted island all to yourself. And while my current self enjoyed reading about all her techniques for protecting herself against wild dogs, for fixing a canoe, for making weapons, making clothes, hunting, and just surviving—I also couldn’t keep the thought of this being based on a true story out of my head as I was reading it. As a reader, that one little tidbit made the story lean toward starkness and bleakness—everything Karana did was life or death, and it sometimes cut very close. But above all, I couldn’t help being ANGRY for Karana—Her people LEFT. HER. BEHIND. and NO ONE CAME BACK FOR HER?!!??!?!?!!? I still get so frustrated and sad for Karana, thinking about all the struggles she went through. *sigh*
I would definitely recommend Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins for anyone who likes a Cast Away/The Blue Lagoon/Robinson Crusoe story.