Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June Book Club: Island of the Blue Dolphins

Ah! The first day of summer shone down on us like Seattle had finally read up on the definition of the seasons.  Our thermometer read over 80!  Just like an air conditioning thermostat in Houston.  And the pool was open, so we dashed over for some quick water time before the farmers market and home so I could pretend to be in a dungeon.  During the day I did my civic duty by sitting around in a park to reserve the spot for our fifth graders' graduation party.  We also serve who sit and wait, you know.

Last week was my adult book club, where we read an ancient Newbery winner.  About half of us had read it as children; the others came to Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins with new and adult perspectives.  My more recent memory comes from the excerpt in my son's third grade reader; I was astonished that it included her stitching a new skirt rather than battling an amphibious giant octopus across the beach (my most vivid memory, from my elementary school reader).  Rereading the entire book, I see why the sewing chapter is also important; not only does it show her ingenuity but it also depicts her coming to terms with her solitude; she still wants to look pretty even when there is no audience for her charms.

Most of us liked the book, although we did wonder how much was based on fact.  The afterword in the book gave us little to go on.  We looked at the tone of the book --  the narrator rarely indulges in strong emotions, instead just giving facts and times that indicate her feelings.  After her brother dies, she fails to keep track of the passing of days until her grief subsides.  Clearly she is nearly catatonic with loss, but her description skips over this, showing the pain while not overwhelming the young reader.  It was interesting to me to see where my memory was wrong; I had blamed the brother more for his death with the intensity of youth, which doesn't cut kids slack for being young.  Now I have more compassion for both Ramo and Karana.  I'll try again to get my son to read this; I think he'd enjoy it.

No comments: