Saturday, October 22, 2011

Island of the Blue Dolphins

I must have been ten or eleven years old when I first read Scott O'Dell's, Island of the Blue Dolphins.  To this day, when I hear the word 'abalone' I am transported to La Isla de San Nicolas.  The story of this extraordinary girl made me appreciate the power of literature.  As a young girl, sitting in my bedroom in the small town of Kahoka Missouri, I was swept away to an island off the coast of California.  I made my own weapons, tamed wild animals and built a house with my bare hands.  The story of Karana was an escape.  I was lost in the romance of her solitary existence and I admired her ability to survive.  All I needed was to find a pack of wild dogs, and I knew I could tame one.

Today I read the story with the same sense of romance.  Almost.  Karana's life on the Island of the Blue Dolphins is romantic, but it's lonely as well.  As a child, I wanted Karana to spend her life on the island.  I never wanted her adventure to end.  As an adult I understand her decision to leave.  She was alone, and as much as she loved her home and her animals, they could never replace human contact.  Early in her story, Karana is visited by a young woman who is part of a otter hunting party.  It is the only brief human contact Karana has during her time alone on the island.  The two don't speak the same language, but they are drawn to one another.  They leave gifts for each other and delight in learning words in their different languages.  Karana is crushed when the otter hunters leave taking her new friend with them.

Island of the Blue Dolphins is a book about the human condition.  Karana's story is one of isolation, fear of death and the struggle to survive, but it is also about her need to connect physically and emotionally to other beings.  In the end, her humanity drives her off the island where she has lived alone for 18 years, and gives her to courage to trust in strangers in hopes of regaining a community.

Things I Loved about Island of the Blue Dolphins:
*The voice of Karana, the narrator
*The book as a chronological journal of Karana's time on the island
*The descriptions of her tools, house and clothing

Okay Followers, this book made a lasting impression on me.  It helped make me the reader I am today.  What book(s) made you a reader?  Why?

Blog you soon!

Ali B


Jen Klein said...

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I haven't read it in years (perhaps it's time to do so again?) but it's one where certain passages come back to me, the way characters are drawn, the way the stories are played out in a way that is honest and unflinching and beautiful and timeless.

As a kid who read EVERYTHING, I also loved Island of the Blue Dolphins. There was a sequel, wasn't there? I think Karana's niece (?) visits the island?

Ali B said...

And maybe it's time I reread A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Scott O'Dell did indeed write a sequel to Island of the Blue Dolphins. Zia was published 16 years after the original book. It is about Karana's niece ~ Zia.

Storied Cities said...

I can't recall if there was any book that made me a reader since I can't remember a time when I wasn't reading everything in sight. However, I do remember enjoying Island of the Blue Dolphins when I was a kid.