The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever
― Jacques Yves Cousteau
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Island of the Blue Dolphins
Karana: Tenacious and Hopeful Hero
As a child, my grade school librarian wore out from me asking to borrow so often. Later, as a private tutor, my students chose this again and again. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell lives up to its reputation as one of the greatest children’s book ever.
Libraries are good for borrowing books, but some books should be on the shelf of any young reader. Scott O’Dell’s magnificent “Island of the Blue Dolphins” is just that. Save your librarian some grief and buy a copy.
“The Island of the Blue Dolphins” is not the story of a foolish young girl who missed the boat when the island was being evacuated. Far from it. Karana was on the boat. Her playful little brother, Ramo, wasn’t. He was only 6 years old and could never survive alone. She jumped off and headed to shore to save him. The boat left.
Every little girl or boy has been alone, frightened without a clear way of finding his or her way home. Often, the problem is fixed by turning the next corner, finding out it is the same neighborhood it has always been. In the case of “The Island of the Blue Dolphins,” Karana’s home never changes. Everyone she knows and loves, however, leaves.
For 18 years Karana took care of herself, and she grows from a preteen child into a woman just entering her 30s. This is that story, filled with adventures similar to “Robinson Crusoe,” another true story set to fiction. Fans of “Swiss Family Robinson,” will likewise enjoy this.
Karana’s ingenuity to survive is surpassed by her tenacity and hope. Weathering hard circumstances, such wild dogs, storms and the constant need to find fresh food and good water. She uses what she learned from her parents and other villagers before the left, and what she learns by trial an error.
As exciting as “Treasure Island,” only with a female protagonist, the book is more than a tale of heroics. Scott O’Dell’s keen sense of description separates this from the rest of the bookshelf. Although sensitive that his reader is younger, he still manages to place to reader in the story, imagining the smell of sea or hearing the not-so-far off bark of wild dogs.
Like other classics as “Old Yeller” and “My Brother Sam Is Dead,” not everything comes easily to Karana. There are somber times when people leave, when her brother dies, or when things look bleak. O’Dell tells the story as realistically as he can, which makes the happy times happier.
I fully recommend “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” by Scott O’Dell. It won “The Newberry Medal for Best Children’s Book” for good reason.
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