Oh the Places You’ll Go

Island of the Blue Dolphins

By Loretta

Dr. Seuss said it!  Oh, the places you’ll go.  Books can take you anywhere, especially children’s books.  The book that I remember best from my childhood is Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.  How I loved that book!  Part of its magic is that it was based on a true story.  The events recounted in the book were imaginary, of course, but chances were that from what the rescuers found when they arrived and knowing the conditions of the island and its wildlife, some of the events probably happened.  I always put myself in Karana’s place, thinking it would be such a great adventure to be left alone on an island for 18 years.    I fashioned my own moccasins, made a spear, and ran around in the woods watching for danger like my life depended on it.  (I was young; what can I say?)

The real story is sad, but captivating.  In 1811, Kodiak Indians were brought to San Nicolas Island to hunt sea otter.  A year later when Captain Whittemore returned to pick them up, he found they had massacred the native men.  Scholars believe it was around this time that Karana (a fictional name) was born.  In 1835, the schooner “Peor es Nada” (Nothing is Worse) went to San Nicolas to hunt sea otter and bring the natives to the missions on the mainland, “for their safety.”  There are differing accounts of what happened, but Karana was left behind, either with a little brother or a child.  The child died and she was left alone.

No one returned to the island until 1852, at which time Karana’s tracks and some baskets and bone needles were found, though she wasn’t.  The next year, 1853, she was found and taken to the mission in Santa Barbara, California.   She was quite a sensation, with people bringing her gifts and just coming by to visit.  They say she was always smiling.  (I can imagine she was terrified and putting on a brave face.)  Very sadly, she died 6 weeks later and is buried at the Santa Barbara Mission.

Island is an un-preachy lesson in courage. If you haven’t read it, I would recommend it, whatever your age.

8 thoughts on “Oh the Places You’ll Go

  1. Hey Luke, They really are a joy, aren’t they? I have to admit a preference for children’s books. Usually they get to the point without making you wade through a hundred pages of descriptive filler, something I appreciate.


  2. OK, Loretta, I read “Island of the Blue Dolphins” last night and it was great.

    But I can’t help thinking how much greater it would have been if Mr. O’Dell had worked in a jet ski chase.

    I know at first glance that would be problematic, but with the introduction of time travel or space pirates it could be very effective.

    Or, and I know I keep coming back to this plot device, but how about a sexy beach volleyball team also getting stranded on the Island of the Blue Dolphins?

    I’m not sure Mr. O’Dell considered all of the possibilities inherent in his story.


    • You’re right, of course! No car chases, no kick-boxing, no robot apocalypse. Dull stuff, for sure. (He did make a small gesture by employing the old pack-of-wild-dogs trick.) I would guess this one was somewhat like reading an Amish romance…?


  3. Loretta, I too loved that book!

    I loved a number of books when I was a kid that were about other kids in wildnerness-esque experiences. Like ‘My Side of the Mountain’ and ‘Julie of the Wolves’, to name a few.


  4. Oh my gosh! How have I never heard that it was based on a true story? I’ll have to revisit this one.

    Also, wouldn’t every book be improved with a guest appearance by PI Diego Rivera and his cat partner draped over his shoulders? Did I get that right?


    • Good to hear from you, Sarah! Yes, you remember it right! hmmm… Maybe I should expand that one a little… If I focus just a bit more on the volleyball team, maybe even Luke will read it!


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