Historical Fiction Book Reviews

Island of the Blue Dolphins

This was my absolute favorite book growing up and I still cherish it more than a decade later.

Island of the Blue Dolphins is based on The Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island: Juana Maria, a Nicoleño Native American left alone on San Nicolas Island for 18 years. She was the last surviving member of her tribe and died after she was rescued. This incredible story has largely been lost in the greater narrative of American history.

“More than anything, it was the blue dolphins that took me back home.”

The story follows a young girl named Karana as she learns to survive on her own. Facing certain death, her tribe flees the island and Karana is left behind. The story has plenty of adventure as Karana fights to survive, learning how to be resourceful – hunting for food and materials for clothing, building shelters, and dealing with the local wild dogs and other dangerous creatures on the island. Where this book really shines is how the writing managed to portray Karana’s feelings of isolation and loneliness which really struck a chord with me.

The book is beautifully written and I’ve read it countless times since it was first gifted to me in elementary school. I look forward to when my own daughters grow older and I can share this story with them. This is a wonderful book for all ages that I absolutely adore. Fantastic for middle grade girls just getting into reading.

Title: Island of the Blue Dolphins
Series: Island of the Blue Dolphins #1
Author: Scott O’Dell
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 9, 1960
Number of Pages: 184
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gift

Far off the coast of California looms a harsh rock known as the island of San Nicholas. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otter play in the vast kep beds, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches.

Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone, and this beautifully written novel is her story. It is a romantic adventure filled with drama and heartache, for not only was mere subsistence on so desolate a spot a near miracle, but Karana had to contend with the ferocious pack of wild dogs that had killed her younger brother, constantly guard against the Aleutian sea otter hunters, and maintain a precarious food supply.

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