Island of the Blue Dolphins

Last updated Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Author: Scott O'Dell
Date of Publication: 1960
ISBN: 0395069629
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jun. 2016

Synopsis: 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 kelp 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.

More than this, it is an adventure of the spirit that will haunt the reader long after the book has been put down. Karana's quiet courage, her self-reliance and acceptance of fate, transform what to many would have been a devastating ordeal into an uplifting experience. From loneliness and terror come strength and serenity in this Newbery Medal-winning classic.

Note to readers:
•  The book is long and you will not finish. Try to read to page 29. Read the Author's Note on page 182-184 for background information before the reading club. Inform the kids the book is based on a true story of a young Indian girl who was found alone on an island off the coast of California. She is buried on a hill near the Santa Barbara Mission.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you know where the Island of the Blue Dolphins is? (It is the island San Nicholas off the coast of California near Santa Barbara)
•  Have you seen dolphins swimming off the California coast?
•  What is an Island? (a body of land surrounded by water)
•  What are the good and bad of living on an island without a boat or plane?


•  Aleut ship - a ship on which the Aleuts sailed. Probably a Russian made ship, because the small canoes they would have used would not have made it all the way from the Aleutian Islands to the southern coast of California.
•  parley - a conference between opposing sides in a dispute, especially a discussion of terms for an armistice
•  toyon--an evergreen bush from California
•  league--a form of measurement about 3 miles
•  clattered--noisily falling
•  pursued--chased
•  snared--caught/trapped pelts--skin/fur of animals

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What food could you eat on an island without stores or restaurants?
•  Why was news of a ship approaching important?
•  What did the hunters want to do with all of the otter pelts? How is that different than what the Indians would do with the pelts?
•  Would you leave the island? Would you leave without your sister or brother?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a Father's Day card for your father or grandfather.
•  Draw your private island and the animals that will keep you company.
•  Check out our June craft ideas on Pinterest!

Special activities:
•  Complete the provided word search.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!