This fine, short novel won the Newbery Award in 1961 and is O'Dell's most recognized work. As with most historical novels it maintains its relevance well.
The novel, like many of O'Dell's stories, is based on actual history, in this case the story of Juana Maria who was stranded on San Nicolas Island from 1835-1853. It is a story that showcases how close to the edge of mortality primitive societies live. It features sharp, painful loss as well as triumph and growth.
The main character, Karana, of necessity, assumes both the traditional roles of men and women. She builds a friendship with a woman who comes to the island with a band of Aleuts, a tribe with whom Karana's tribe had fought. She also finds companionship with the animals of the island, particularly two dogs.
Very well crafted, The Island of the Blue Dolphins is a highly recommended tale of adventure, adversity, resourcefulness and perseverance.
O'Dell was also a runner-up for the Newbery three other times, with The King's Fifth (1966), The Black Pearl (1967), and Sing Down the Moon (1970). I can recommend The King's Fifth from personal experience. All four are available on Biblio for less than $4.00 including shipping.
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)