Island of the Blue Dolphins – Literature – Evaluation

For this book Scott O´Dell received the John Newberry Medal, an award that is given for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The book has been translated into nineteen different languages and despite having been published already in 1960, it is still one of the most popular books read among young children.
In 1976, the Children´s Literature Association named it as one of the ten best American children´s books of the past two hundred years.
The language used in this book is kept on a simple level, making it suitable for young children. Only specific vocabulary concerning the environment such as animals and plants might form some obstacle for second language learners. However, this could be used for acquiring new vocabulary in a playful way with reference to a real-life context.
Moreover, this book contributes to teaching children appropriate handling of nature. Since the story is told by a first-person narrator, children can easily identify with Karana and experience animals, plants and humans the way she does – with respect and care. It also emphasizes the importance of friendship in life either among people or with animals, which is portrayed in the story through Karana´s relationship to Tutok and Rontu respectively Rontu-Aru, the second dog she tames to be her companion.
Furthermore, this book enables the reader to get to know a different cultural perspective. By reading Karana´s story one gets in touch with specific rituals such as the “Rite of manhood”, which prescribes that when a tribe member is nominated to be the chief, he is whipped with snitches of nettles and is tied to a red-ant hill. The reader also learns about the traditional lifestyle of such a tribe and about the meaning of being a member of a tribal family.