Island of the Blue Dolphins

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

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 60 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.

Wondering if Island of the Blue Dolphins is OK for your kids?

Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7 and 9-year-old Written byHeather M. October 15, 2016

Too heavy for my 9 year old

This book is the current 4th grade assignment for our school. I am very disappointed with how heavy and dark it is. My child is prone to anxiety and the deaths... Continue reading
Adult Written byAflower2 July 9, 2019

My boys loved it

My 9 year old boys loved this book. The book is for an advanced reader, but it is a wonderful pic for the child wanting an adventure.
Teen, 13 years old Written byguitarangel96 April 13, 2009

Im sorry, but I thought it was really boring!

When I read this in 5th grade I could barley get through it. Yes, it was an interesting story, but I would never read it again. Since she had absoultly nothing... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 2, 2014

Really Great

It was a great book but everyone in my class didn't finish it and my friend and I were the only one's who finished. Only good readers should read this... Continue reading

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

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love strong characters

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate