Island of the Blue Dolphins
by Scott O'Dell
illus by ILLUSTRATOR
Best for ages: AGES
Best of Year Lists: LISTS
Review Citations: CITATIONS
Type of Book: TYPE
Topics and Themes: TOPICS
Karana is a female character from the book, Island of the Blue Dolphins. She plays a very brave role about a Native American woman who is stranded on an island and has to survive on her own for years. What is so amazing about the book is that the events and characters in the book are based off of real life people and events from history. The story of Karana is re-told by Scott O’Dell in a way that is interesting for young readers and allows a visual and intellectual insight to the life of a Native American.
I found a lot of information about Karana’s character. She is known as “the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island.” In the book, Karana goes through many adventures of survival. She goes against her tribes rules and creates weapons from animal bones and rocks. She also weaves baskets and creates bowls that she made by rubbing down stone. Another thing that Karana goes into great detail about is the canoe or “tomol” that she creates. This canoe was of great importance to Karana because it gave her means of transportation and another way to hunt for food. Coincidently enough, all of these fine trades can be traced back to the Chumash tribe. The Chumash Tribe come from the shores of California and that is where Karana’s tribe derives from. The tribe is well known for their basketwork. In the book, Karana talks often about the baskets that she weaves. She even had some baskets that she took with her when she was rescued but all of her historical artifacts were ruined in an earthquake. Thankfully, there are pictures of these artifacts from the Chumash tribe so that we can have some visual representation of what Karana created.
Another fantastic historical experience we can take from the book is Karana’s Rescue. We actually have a picture of Karana’s Rescuer, Captain George Nidiver. Not only did Captain George Nidiver and his crew rescue Karana, but he took her to the mission in Santa Barbra where she stayed with his family. He was known for his trapping skills and especially hunting sea otters. Sea Otters were plentiful on the Island of the Blue Dolphins and so it was no surprise that he chose to hunt on the most remote of the Channel Islands. It was here that he discovered Karana and rescued her. Although she only lived a short seven weeks with his family, Karana was still a great interest to the people at Santa Barbra. No one could be found that knew her broken language so she told her story through motions and gestures. Karana’s real name may never be known but what we do know is that she was baptized as Juana Maria when she was on her deathbed. However, she is better known as the Lone Woman of the San Nicolas Island.
It is amazing that we have the information that we do from this captivating story. Although there are not many facts or historical documents of Karana, there is a lot of speculation. Much of her story has been pieced together and thanks to Scott O’ Dell it has been re created as a work for children. Karana is such an interesting character to study and much can be learned from her survival skills and will to live, not to mention her free spirit. The DAR (Daughters of American Revolution) placed a plaque in her honor at the mission in 1928. It is the last thing that you see as you leave the cemetery. Thanks to Karana’s uplifting story we all have a better idea of the natural resources the natives used, as well an outstanding personality that once existed many years ago.
My research can be found from the cites listed below:
O'Dell, Scott. Island of the Blue Dolphins. New York: Yearling, 1960.