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.