Thursday, November 03, 2022

57. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

I read this to my daughter who is now 10.  It's one of my wife's favourites and the nice Laurel-Leaf paperback was the one she read as a girl.  It is a great little book that lives up to its reputation. What works here is the Robinson Crusoe fantasy, but done with an adolescent girl. Also, it is sort of the opposite in that she is not shipwrecked on an island but accidentally abandoned as her community all flee after a fight with Otter hunting Aleuts leaves them vulnerable.  Because she is a girl, she doesn't have the hunting and building skills that the men had and has to figure them out on her own from what she saw growing up. This was one element that my daughter heavily criticized and also made me suspect may be historically inaccurate.  Or at least O'Dell never checked.  My understanding was that a lot of the west coast people were matrilineal, though I don't know how that would impact education and it may have varied a lot depending on the region.

Still, her teaching herself fishing and canoe repair is a cool part of the story.  Despite not having all the skills, she is tough and non-emotional when she has to be.  It makes for a good protagonist for girls and boys.  I don't have a whole lot to add, just to say if you are looking for a good read for your tweener and even teen child, I can recommend this one.  Sadly, the real story is quite dark.  All her people were taken to Santa Barbara and died there of disease.  When she did get found, she too was sailed to Santa Barbara, where she could speak to nobody but 3 of the remaining people.  She died 7 weeks later and was the last of her language group.  It sounded like her life wasn't too bad in those last 7 weeks, that she was excited to have different kinds of food and see the world.  The book hints at this at the end, making it ultimately quite sad.

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