Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell, was published in 1960 by Houghton.
Island of the Blue Dolphins is not nearly as interesting as O’Dell’s Newbery Honor-winning book The King’s Fifth. There’s not nearly as much dialogue or character interaction, for one, since the premise of this book is a girl stuck on an island by herself for years. There’s also not enough action or tension to help with the overall tedium of the plot.
The most interesting thing about this book is that it
is inspired by a true story: the story of “The Lone Woman of San Nicolas
Island” (Juana Maria), who lived for eighteen years by herself on San Nicolas
Island (off the coast of California) after her tribe left. This is a survival
story, so O’Dell imagines what Juana Maria (Karana in the novel) must have done
to live off the land and survive as the only human.
There’s a brother, too, which O’Dell gives as the
reason for why Karana is left behind, but then the brother makes a quick exit
about thirty minutes (or so it feels) after the tribe leaves, when he runs into
a pack of wild dogs. Thus, Karana quickly realizes the impetus for her staying
behind is now gone, and now she must wait for the ship to return.
I do honestly enjoy survival stories, but the ones
I’ve read lately have been underwhelming. Karana is well-prepared to stay for
years on the island, and I suppose that’s a bit of what takes the wind out of
the sails: there’s never any sense of real danger or real struggle. The most
exciting part of the book is a tidal wave, followed by an earthquake; it’s the
only part of the book where Karana loses her unflappability and becomes more
like a real person. I think the story, on paper, is great—again, I love
survival stories—but actually written out, Island
of the Blue Dolphins is underwhelming and mostly boring.