Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Three of the 7 Fantabulous Re-Reads: Island of the Blue Dolphins

The first time I read this novel, about sixteen years ago, I loved it.  We had to read it for school, and I so enjoyed the story of Karana that I read it through three times before the rest of my class had finished it. 

The Island of the Blue Dolphins (so named because if you stand at the highest ridge on the island, the island appears to be in the shape of a dolphin) is a small island, inhabited by a tribe of Indians, the tribe of Ghalas-at, with the chief's daughter Karana as the main character.    Karana's mother died years before so she and her older sister care for their father and younger brother, Ramo.

The Ghalas-at tribe is peaceful, and are only cautious and weary when a group of men, called Aleuts, show up on the island to hunt otter.  Karana's father allows the men to hunt on the promise that they will share half of their catch before they leave at the end of the summer.  When the time comes for the Aleuts to leave, it becomes evident they have no intention of making good on their word, so the chief and the men of the tribe go to the beach to confront the men.  A battle breaks out, and most of the men, including the chief, are killed. 

A new chief is appointed, and he decides the indians need to leave the island.  He leaves to find a new land and promises to return with a ship.  The tribe waits for him for a long time, but he does not return.  After winter passes, a ship comes to take the tribe, as they were instructed by the chief.  They all leave the island, but in the process Karana is separated from Ramo.  As the ship is sailing away, she sees that Ramo has been left behind on the island, but the captain will not turn around so Karana jumps ship and swims back to her brother.  The ship sails away, leaving the two of them all alone.

Almost immediately Ramo is killed by wild dogs, and Karana finds herself alone, without weapons and unsure of how to make them.  She can't bear to stay in the village, so she burns it down and decides to find a new place to live.  She begins to learn how to make weapons and use them, build a shelter, mend canoes and fight off the wild dogs.

As time passes, Karana learns that she is capable of doing anything she sets her mind to, and finds that although she is alone, she can befriend some of the local animals to ease the loneliness.  She tames a wild dog, catches birds, helps an injured otter and tries, but fails, to keep a fox as a pet. 

The story is one of great personal growth and survival.  It's actually based on a true story, which makes it even more interesting.  The novel is only 181 pages, and it's meant for young readers, so it's a quick and easy read.  I still suggest it to anyone and everyone, because Karana is such an endearing character.

Next up:  American Psycho!


  1. Oh my gosh, blast from the past.. I read this when I was in my early teens and remember loving it. If I can find it in my old stack of books, I may just have to reread it as well. Great pick!

  2. OMG- I did read this! After reading your summary I realized that it sounded all too familiar. I think I must have read it in school.

  3. This sounds like a good read for young teens. Great review ;)