Mooresville Public Library

Mooresville Public Library
MPL Courtyard

Thursday, January 13, 2011

MPL Book Trailer #91: Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell

Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell, was first published in 1960 and received the Newbery Medal in 1961. The novel was inspired by the true story of Juana Maria (1803?-1853), whose Native American name is unknown. "The lone (or lost) woman of San Nicolas Island," Juana Maria was a member of the NicoleƱo tribe. Her people were decimated in conflicts with Aleutian sea otter hunters under contract with the Russian-American Company. In 1835, the Santa Barbara Mission relocated the surviving tribal members to the mainland, but, somehow, Juana Maria was left behind. She lived alone on the island from 1835 to 1853, when she was rescued by George Nidever's expedition in late summer, 1853. She was taken to the Santa Barbara Mission but could not communicate in a language anyone there understood. She died seven weeks after being brought to the Mission.

Our book trailer below provides a brief summary of O'Dell's novel.


O'Dell successfully captured the solitary, isolated life that the heroine, Wonapalei, whose secret name was Karana, lived for so long. The author paints a vivid description of what Juana Maria's real life adventures might have been. It is an engaging book that a wide range of readers will enjoy. Although targeted toward children ages 9-12, it has also been a favorite of teenagers and adults alike.

If you've ever imagined running off to an island somewhere to live alone, you might reconsider after reading this book--at least if you had lived 175-200 years ago. It's no Gilligan's Island, to be sure; but, then, real life difficulties rarely get neatly resolved in 22 minutes of television air time (30 with commercials).


William R. Buckley
MPL Indiana Room Historian & Reference Coordinator

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