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am 15. Juli 2000
Reviewer: Cory Giacobbe
As vortexes of parents and children whirl through the latest Harry Potter book, I wanted to honor a less-publicized gem. Mr. O'Dell's classic work seems to have attracted a quiet pool of devoted readership, including adults.
Unless grammar school students are worked with closely, this true story's beauty will evade most of them. This is due to the deceptive simplicity of style. Mr. O'Dell has an amazing gift for sophisticated subtext.
In some prior reviews, children call the book "dull." They rebel against, what they see as, ridiculously inane actions by the main character: spearing dinner, going for a swim, etc. They see her offering little emotion, plot.
In reality, what a powerful world Scott O'Dell is evoking!
The main character spends much time, traumatized. Mr. O'Dell uses common activity, to mask overwhelming emotions the young girl has trouble confronting -- initially she runs away from each problem, by fastening to familiar actions that first comfort her. Gradually, they provoke her into creative-thinking, evolving the storyline.
The gist: For eighteen years (1835 - 1853) from age twelve to thirty, Karana (public name, Won-a-pa-lei) the main character, must fend for herself on an abandoned island.
I was never aware of Mr. O'Dell's books, when I was a pre-adolescent girl. I love the subtle craftwork: the author's masterful use of the passive voice, as counterbalance to each trauma it is veiling; his weather-descriptions tracking many characters' inner turmoil or serenity; the minimal use of thought-processes, his letting each character's -- even the wild dogs' -- physical action reveal intense emotion.
It requires time to absorb content.
For example, the author delicately lets drop one same phrase, throughout various scenes. The girl keeps returning to the thought, that she is able to scare away some dogs, "but not the leader ...." She even accomplishes killing a few dogs, "but not the leader ...." Those repetitive, hypnotic words become her meditative koan, an obsession, initially concealing her vengeful, murderous state of mind, her goal of attack. This mindset is at odds with the quiet, constructive work of building a home, appreciating nature, in which she is otherwise engaged.
Because feelings are understated, one rare, overtly dramatic moment is unexpected and memorable --
I first came upon the book a few months after my dog of over 20 (human) years had died. The story was cathartic. Even years later, Chapter 25 moves me. Karana's love for her dog resonates. There's that one outpouring of anguish, the most explicitly emotional, explosive line in the whole book, "Rontu ... oh, Rontu!" It still puts a lump in my throat.
Even more than its indirect, magnificent plea for respect to all creatures, the text explores this ironic theme, the gift of loss. Karana must confront her anger at not just the choices by others, but her own, impactng her life.
One must read between the quiet lines to see that her father is a mirror-image of the gruff, selfish Russian captain, his interloping foe. Preoccupied villagers, their successive leaders, lack empathy and foresight. They dismiss the sufferings of wounded otters; of neglected pet dogs forced to turn wild; of a distressed sibling of Karana, where they even try to prevent her from helping.
Thus, no nurturing models exist for Karana, motherless even as the book opens. The village women, including her sister, act venomously. In battle, rocks are flung "from many places along the cliffs." It's a subtle hint. Earlier the author has already revealed, these are the hiding-places of the women. This passive-assertive aggression Karana must learn to purify, re-direct towards higher purposes, afterwards.
In examining her heritage, and the culture of strangers, she realizes she must carve her own way. She reminds me very much of long-time seekers. Many of us grasped with mingled fear and sadness, even anger, then with freeing awareness, that our legacies, Eastern or Western, including modern New Thought, may exhibit rigidity.
From two centuries past, here is Karana, reminding us that this fresh minted millennium is calling for resilience and courage.
From her to us is the gift of the secret name.
The author lets her blurt, to us, her own hidden name, Karana. She is bonded to us; she is our mirror. Her challenges, our (inner) ones.
The author also implies that, only when Karana drops pride, is the girl able to sense that the secret name for loss is: blessing-in-disguise. She is proud that she is not so vain as her sister. Yet she herself, after diving from the ship, lets her basket of precious ornaments and tools, her prized, fancy yucca skirt, drag her down, almost drowning her, until she realizes only if she lets go, will she rise.
Even the island has a secret name.
It has been known to the world by Spanish explorers since 1602 as Isla de San Nicholas. Karana cherishes its private label, Island of the Blue Dolphins. The name gives her hope, strength, for she considers dolphins her friends.
How ironic. An island, that reportedly became a secretly titled naval base, for defensive military maneuvers/experiments, once was graced by the presence of Karana. She had set aside her own defenses, and experienced oneness with her world. Her story reflects the very code of Franciscan harmlessness, integral to the path of the friar, she later meets.
Mr. O'Dell never explains what the personal name, "Karana," might be. For me, the book illumines that there is a secret name for each of us: one dominant, beautiful quality of soul radiating, that defines who you are. In some way, Karana's secret name must surely mean "compassion."
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am 31. Juli 1998
My 9-year old daughter was assigned Island of the Blue Dolphins as required summer reading -- her 4th grade class will be studying California history once school starts. My husband and I decided to also read the book for the first time as part of our family reading.
Orr daughter enjoyed the book - especially the parts about Karana making friends with the animals and many of the survival descriptions. The book offers tantalizing possiblities for a 9-year old. My husband thought it was a great adventure book, and he liked the idea that the protagonist was a girl this time. I, too, thought it was inspiring that the main character was a brave young female who was able to wrestle the natural environment and yet be respectful of its wonders.
I, do, however, have three concerns, perhaps petty and irrelavant given the larger vision of the story: (1) Nowhere in the book was there a mention of how Karana made her many fires -- she used fire to rid the houses at her aband! oned village; she made numerous fires for cooking and keeping warm. I remember only one description that hinted at the difficulty of making fire -- when she sprinkled ashes over her night fire and blew the embers in the morning to keep it alive. (I hope I got the description right.) Fire is basic to sustaining long-term survival for humans. I think a young reader would have apreciated at least a brief description. (2) Given that the book was first published around 1960 or so and written by a man, I can understand why there were no mention of matters related to all girls as they mature from a 12-year old to a woman. Much of the description of survival was gender-neutral, as it should be, but I would have preferred a bit more description of Karana's self-discovery as a female. (3) I'm a bit bothered that many of the great books about girls have the protagonist as conveniently orphaned in order to allow her to make defining moment decisions unfettered by parental, especial! ly, maternal, constraints. While this book falls in that ve! in, Island is however based on a true story, one in which the real Karana had to rely on her wits to survive and make sense of the world.
My concerns do not diminish the power of the book and I only wish the book had not eluded me when I was my daughter's age. Our family discussions these past few days have included references to the book. In fact, I just bought the sequel, Zia, for my daughter, and will probably borrow it when she is done with it.
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am 19. Juli 2000
I first read "Island of the Blue Dolphins" in fifth grade, way back in the early seventies. I remembered it twenty years later, when I read it again as an adult looking to build a library for his daughter. Scott O'Dell's tale of Karana is still as perfect now as it was decades ago; none of the adventure has faded. I had nightmares as a child of the giant fish she battles; I still read it with excitement today. One of the great classics of survival!
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am 18. April 2000
This book was about a girl who was left alone on a island formany years. She went through many adventures and hardships. In thebeginning she had to find a place to build a new home. She build it next to a tall wall made of rock. Around the front she built a fence made out of whale bones to keep the wild dogs out. My favorite part of the book is when she shoots the leader of the wild dogs and feels sorry for him. She takes him home and nurses him back to health. At first he doesn't like her and isn't nice to her. After a while they become the closest friends. She names him Rontu. Rontu protects her from the other wild dogs and alerts her to any dangers. After many years Rontu grows old and goes off and dies. The girl is very lonely without Rontu around so she watches the wild dogs and finds one that looks like Rontu. She captures him and they quickly become friends. She also makes friends with many of the other animals on the island. She has birds that she captured, a fox, and some otters. In the end she is rescued after spending so much time on the island alone. All her people had been drowned on a boat. She had no one left and no one could understand her language. I thought that this was a great story because it showed that even when you are alone you can find things to keep you happy. I also liked this story because I live alone with my dog. My dog keeps me company just like Rontu did for the girl.
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am 18. April 2000
This book was about a girl who was left alone on a island for many years. She went through many adventures and hardships. In the beginning she had to find a place to build a new home. She build it next to a tall wall made of rock. Around the front she built a fence made out of whale bones to keep the wild dogs out. My favorite part of the book is when she shoots the leader of the wild dogs and feels sorry for him. She takes him home and nurses him back to health. At first he doesn't like her and isn't nice to her. After a while they become the closest friends. She names him Rontu. Rontu protects her from the other wild dogs and alerts her to any dangers. After many years Rontu grows old and goes off and dies. The girl is very lonely without Rontu around so she watches the wild dogs and finds one that looks like Rontu. She captures him and they quickly become friends. She also makes friends with many of the other animals on the island. She has birds that she captured, a fox, and some otters. In the end she is rescued after spending so much time on the island alone. All her people had been drowned on a boat. She had no one left and no one could understand her language. I thought that this was a great story because it showed that even when you are alone you can find things to keep you happy. I also liked this story because I live alone with my dog. My dog keeps me company just like Rontu did for the girl.
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am 25. Februar 2000
I read the book "Island of the Blue Dolphin" The author is Scott O'Dell who won the Newbery Medal for this book in 1961. He has written so many kinds of books for teenagers and is one of the most popular authors for young people. In 1976 the Children's Literature Association named this riveting story one of the ten best American children's boos of the past two handred years. The story is about a twelve-year old American Indian girl,Karana. O'Dell wrote the real-life story of that litle Indian girl. One day a ship came to take the Indians off of the island, which looks like the blue dolphin. In all the excitement, they didn't make sure that everyone was on the ship. So they didn't notice that Karana's little brother wasn't on the ship. She jumped ship to stay with her little brother, who had been abandoned on the island, but he dided shourtly thereafter, adn she had to live alone on the island for 18 years. After that she had to wait a long time for them come back and get her. So she made weapons, built shelter, found good and fought wild dogs by herself,but also she made wonderful friend to talk with. She became a very strong person during those 18 years. This story written primarily for children. So if you like books about survival adn adventure read this book. It's a good book that touches your heart. I loved it!
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am 16. Januar 2000
Without doubt this book is worthy of its Newbery Medal and it's rave reviews. This book manages to both excite and calm the reader. It is also Scott O'Dell's one of the famous books in the world. Based on the true story, with unbelievable survival of young girl, Karana.
The plot of this book begins dramatically and mellows with moments of drama. As it's draws to an end, it closes with dramatic ending. There are two major turning points. One of them were when Karen's brother dies. From then on, she had to live her by herself. Also when the Aleuts came back, its scenery plot dramatically.
While reading this book, you become intimate with the character, almost like a loyal friend but slightly separated. This book is written in first person so it naturally makes readers to become close to the character. But, sometimes this book slightly separates character and the readers, as we never hear about the main character's innermost thoughts. The only emotions are those that are close friend or observer would notice. It adds more realism because after Karen came to USA she could not communicate. Warm- hearted, adventurous Karen is described very well in this book.
Scott O'Dell, author of this book, has written a lot of books for teenagers and one of the most popular, well-loved authors for young people. He won Newbery Award Medal three times and a lot of other awards and in various countries. His books have been translated into other languages so people of all countries can enjoy his classics.
One thing that surprises us, while reading this book, is that it is very well researched. He researched a lot of things that are required in order to describe her life in the island. In this book, you'll see a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary that is used to describe things both in the past and related to island life.
His style of writing also attracts us. You feel like you were there with her as the reader is just following her like the waves and the wind. It also captures and expresses her feelings. You can almost see the scenes and imagine them clearly. Since it is written in first person, you become friendly with the character. It will draw you in and you'll forget where you are. Just like you have been absorbed by it. One of the things which it draws you in is that the author chooses words that she would choose, to add to authenticity. For example, he would describe the length of time something took as, 'taking many suns to do it.'(Pg. 78) The words used in the book are very very descriptive.
The end, it leaves you with more questions than answers. Like did she meet her family or how did she feel when she first came to America? I wished the book had continued and said more about the end. I liked this book because she finally gets back.
This book is really a moving, sad and touching, simply a classic, story.
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am 3. Dezember 1999
In her subtle way, Karana narrates a story of an island culture along with many truthes of life in this classic young adult novel. Scott Odell creates a paradise and a romanticized situation that continually draws readers in, generation after generation. A story of endurance and survival, Karana's story reflects the story of Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea. In every new experience, Karana learns more about her world and more about herself. Part of the artistic quality of this book is the fact that Karana nver tells readers what she has learned, she shows them. At one point in the book, Karana refers to Rontu's howl as "the sound of many things that I did not understand." Karana shows great wisdom even in the things she does not understand. Because of the removed way she tells her own story, the reader gains an even stronger sense that something very important and extraordinary has occurred. Young adult readers can find an escape from their the difficulties of their own world when they travel to Karana's world. Her inner strength continues to be a souce of fascination and inspiration. Centering this story on a native island culture, odell preserves many customs and mannerisms of these people through Karana. Karana, in turn, gives them to us so that we can preserve them in our minds.
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am 28. Juli 1998
My 9-year old daughter was assigned Island of the Blue Dolphins as required summer reading -- her 4th grade class will be studying California history once school starts in the fall. My husband and I decided to also read the book this summer (for the first time) as part of our family reading.
Our daughter loved the book, espcially the parts about Karana making friends with the animals and surviving on her own. The book offers tantalizing possibilities for a 9-year old. My husband thought it was a great adventure book, and he liked the idea that the protagonist was a girl this time. I, too, thought it was inspiring that the main character was a brave young female who was able to wrestle with the natural environment and yet be respectful of its wonders.
I do, however, have two concerns, perhaps petty and irrelevant given the larger vision of the story. (1) Nowhere in the book was there a mention how how Karan made her many fires. She used fire to rid the houses at her abandoned village; she made fires for cooking and keeping warm. I remember only one description that hinted at the difficulty of making fire -- when Karana sprinkled ashes over her night fire and blew the embers in the morning to keep it alive.(I hope I got the description right.) Fire is very basic to sustaining long-term survival for humans. I think a young reader would have appreciated a brief description. (2) Given that the book was first published around 1960 or so and written by a man, I can understand why there was no suggestion whatsoever of Karana's first period and how she dealt with it. Karana starts out as a 12-year old and becomes a 30-year old at the end of the story (at least according to the author's afterword). Yet much of the book's description could have been attributed to a boy, except perhaps for Karana's interest in making the cormorant skirt. Her sexuality is, however, acknowledged at the end of the book when Karana realizes she can finally leave the island and she drawas the blue line on her face (as her sister did many years before) to indicate she is an unmarried female.
My concerns do not diminish the power of the book and I only wish the book had not eluded me when I was my daughter's age. Many of the great books about girls have the protagonist as orphaned in order to allow her to make defining decisions unfettered by parental, especially, maternal, constraints. While this books falls in that vein, Island is based on a true story and the real Karana did have to rely on her wits to survive and make sense of the world. If only I had read the book as a young girl!
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am 10. Juni 1998
I thought that Scott O'Dell's book, Island of the Blue Dolpins, was extraordinary. It captures a reader and takes then into the tough life of a young girl by the name of Karana. The reader not only reads the story, but somehow aslo seems to experience the tragedies and stuggles experience by Karana herself. Karana finds herself deserted on her tribe's island, the Island of the Blue Dolphins, and struggled to survive until they come back for her. Meanwhile, Karana finds strength and wisdom living on the island all by herself. She learns how to put clothes on her back and a roof over her head. Karana also becomes clever at living off the nature around her, eating fish and finding fresh water. She grows close to the land and ocean, her only companions, until she become aquainted with the wildlife on the island. Karana is accompanied by several animals, which grow very dear to her. Karana grows desperate for her tribe's return and finally gives up. But to her surprise and patience, she finds that there is much more in store for her. I would definitely reccomend this book to elementery/junior high teachers. It would be an adventure for their students to read. Another book I strongly reccomend, that is similiar to Island of the Blue Dolphins, is Joy Cowley's, The Silent One. This book also takes place on an island and leads the reader to join the exciting adventure of a deaf/mute boy and his village.
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