Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
Some stories are so perfectly told, it almost seems as if they exist on their own and must swim around in story space until they can find an author who will free them and put them down on paper. Such a story is Island of the Blue Dophins, finding its way onto paper through Scott O’Dell in 1960. Winner of the Newberry Medal in that year, this beautifully imagined novel is based on a true story of a young Nicoleno Indian girl marooned for 18 years on San Nicolas Island off the California coast during the nineteenth century.
Karana’s tribe has left the island in the hurry as a result of devastating conflict with the Aleuts. Karana refuses to leave her brother who cannot be found when the ship leaves, and the two stay together until her brother is killed by a pack of feral dogs. Alone, Karana not only learns how to survive but she learns how to be wise both in heart and in mind. The scene where she befriends a feral dog she herself has wounded is a priceless example of how literature can reach out and grab and hold a human heart.
Written at a fifth grade reading level and a fourth to sixth grade interest level, this is a book that will convince reluctant readers that reading can be really fun. Mostly liked by girls, Island of the Blue Dophins is found on the bookshelves in many schools and by sixth grade, many girls have already read it. But if you know a girl as young as third grade who already likes to read or one as old as seventh grade who does not yet like to read, and they haven’t read this book, give it to them.