Genre: middle grade historical fiction
Length: 184 pages
Setting: an island off California, 1800s
Interest: It was one of my favorite books as a child and I convinced Mr. Curiosity it would make a good bedtime story.
Summary: Karana is a young woman who lives on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. One day, the Aleuts come to hunt sea otters. The island residents know the Aleuts will try to cheat them for the otter. When it comes time for the Aleuts to leave, a fight breaks out and many of the men are killed. The newly appointed chief then decides to take a canoe to the mainland in the hopes of sending a ship back to take everyone off the island. The ship arrives in a storm and everyone gets on board except Karana’s little brother. Karana jumps overboard to go to her brother and the ship leaves without them. She then has to figure out how to survive on the island by herself since her brother is killed by a pack of feral dogs. Karana ultimately tames one of the dogs for companionship and survives on the island for many years before another ship comes to the island.
Final thoughts: The book was just as good as I remembered it. Mr. Curiosity enjoyed it as well. At the end, he commented he wished she would have stayed on the island longer so the book was longer. Karana doesn’t have an easy life. Her brother is killed and she has to learn how to make weapons through trial and error. I enjoyed her determination to survive and all the plans she made to do so. I was intrigued to find this was based on the true story of Juana Maria.
This made a good bedtime read-aloud. The chapters are short, and it’s all told from Karana’s point of view, which made it easy to read. The survival aspect of living on your own was interesting, and having it told from a girl’s point of view was a welcome change of pace.
Awards won: Newbery Medal in 1961
Reading challenges fulfilled: 43/100 in my 100 Book Challenge, and a 20th century classic in the Back to the Classics Challenge
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