Wednesday, April 2, 2008
ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS (Genre: Historical fiction/module 6)
Title: Island of the Blue Dolphins
Author: Scott O'Dell
This is the 1960 Newbery Award winning tale of Karana, based on the real life individual Juana Maria a member of the Nicoleno tribe who was stranded on San Nicholas Island. Karana's small village of Ghalas-at is visited by Aleuts who wish to hunt sea otters on their island. The Aleuts attempt to leave before paying the villagers. A war breaks out and many of Karana's tribe are killed. When a village elder attempts to get a ship to take the remaining tribe to safety a storm breaks out and Karana jumps ship when she realizes her brother has been left on the island. Karana's brother is subsequently killed by the village dogs which have become feral and she takes on duties and responsibilities previously reserved only for the men in the tribe in order to assure her own survival. Avowing revenge on the dogs, Karana kills many of the feral pack but injures the leader whom she later befriends. The Aleuts return, this time with a young woman who eventually befriends Karana. Later a ship appears to rescue Karana. She dresses in her finest clothing, a skirt made of cormorant feathers and a sea otter pelt top. Her rescuers determine that Karana is unprepared for civilization, dress her appropriately, and take her to a mission in Santa Barbara. This book remains a popular choice because it discusses gender roles and responsibilities, offers an opportunity for youth to debate whether they would be able to step up as Karana did, and offers an opportunity to discuss various environmental concerns. Young adult readers may identify with Karana for her courage and nobility as well as her personal dedication.