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Island of the Blue Dolphins

Book review by
Jessica Pierce, Common Sense Media
Island of the Blue Dolphins Book Poster Image
Smart girl learns to survive alone in compelling adventure.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 54 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Women in Karana's tribe are not allowed to hunt, but she must break these rules out of necessity. By becoming a proficient hunter, she learns that she is as capable as any man.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Karana is a strong character.


There is one battle scene, and the main character must kill in order to survive. Wild dogs and dangerous invaders constantly threaten. Karana witnesses the deaths of her father, and little brother is killed by wild dogs.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that lyrical writing and an unusual and compelling survival story based on fact overcome the slow pacing and create an unforgettable atmosphere in this book.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 and 11 year old Written byTizzie October 15, 2009

Wait a Bit on This One

Started to read it with my eight-year-old and it proved too much for her. The separation from her family and the death of her father and brother made her too em... Continue reading
Parent of a 17 year old Written bydenyza almayda March 3, 2011
Kid, 12 years old April 25, 2011

perfect for 10 and up

love it because I am 12 years old and at first I thought it was going to be boring but it isn't it is like a action movie.
Teen, 15 years old Written bymoviegeek April 9, 2008

Amazing and beautiful

This novel teaches girls that they can do things as good as any boy if they just put their mind to it. Beautifully written and one of my favourites!

What's the story?

An island girl is separated from her tribe and must learn how to survive on her own. Through threats of wild animals, natural disasters, and invaders, Karana learns to apply her skills toward keeping herself alive. This gritty story was ahead of its time in its depiction of a strong, self-sufficient heroine.

When a tribe of islanders leaves their home in search of a safer place to live, they accidentally leave behind a 12-year-old girl and her young brother who (SPOILER ALERT) does not survive. Karana must learn, through various hardships, to get by without the help or wisdom of her tribe. Readers witness her struggle to survive, season after season, for the 18 years she stays on the island. She's not lonely; eventually she befriends and tames various wild animals, even those she's seen as her enemies. She comes to realize it's easier to live in peace than to be constantly at war.

Is it any good?

Based on a true story, this well-written adventure shows how one smart, innovative girl uses her knowledge of the world around her to ensure her survival. Through many challenges, Karana remains intent not only on survival alone on her island, but also on making a happy life for herself, showing incredible strength of purpose. The book is full of vivid natural description, from the general geography of the island to the specific details of how Karana obtains and prepares food.

Karana finds strengths she never knew she had, which young readers find appealing. Kids will keep reading to find out not only how Karana keeps herself alive, but about the many ways she has fun on her island and the non-human friends she finds. When her rescue finally comes, she leaves the island a different person than the girl who was stranded there 18 years earlier. The joy of the book comes from watching this change take place.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about feeling lonely. Do you think Karana will continue to feel lonely even among people on the mainland?

  • Are Karana's relationships with the animals around her a good substitute for relationships with people? Do you have close relationships with any animals?

  • Do you think she would fit in with her tribe after so much time alone?

Book details

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