Parents' Guide to

Island of the Blue Dolphins

By Jessica Pierce, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Native American girl survives alone in compelling adventure.

Island of the Blue Dolphins Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 12 parent reviews

age 7+

Great story

This is a read-aloud for my boys, ages 7 (advanced reader/comprehension) and 10. They love it and ask me to read it to them daily. It provides great discussion starters, some new words, geography, culture, etc. We rank it among the best reads we've had, and there are many!

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
age 10+

A Boring book, but don't despair!

I disliked this book, and others like it that I was forced to read in grammar school so much that I hated reading for years. They assign books because they deem them good for you, or the English teacher likes them, who loves the classics. Boys usually do not. Finally, a great English teacher in 8th grade assigned the Hobbit. I've loved reading ever since. I'm now 63.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (12):
Kids say (54):

Based on a true story, this well-written adventure shows how a brave, adaptable, self-reliant girl uses her knowledge of the world around her to ensure her survival. Through many challenges, Karana remains intent on surviving and making a happy life for herself, showing incredible strength of purpose. Island of the Blue Dolphins 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 enjoy seeing not only how she keeps herself alive, but also the many ways she has fun on her island and the nonhuman friends she makes. The joy of the book comes from watching Karana grow and change over the years that she spends on the island.

While this survival story can be captivating for young readers, Native American critics have called out Scott O'Dell's nostalgic, stereotypical rather than authentic portrayal of Native Americans, repeating clichés such as Native Americans trading land for beads.

Book Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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