As a big fan of the classics, I sometimes find myself in a quandary about how to review one that I really did not enjoy. Such is the case with O’Dell’s Newberry winner about Karana, a twelve year old girl who reluctantly stays behind when her tribe leaves their island home off the coast of California. Having read the book years ago, I thought I would give it another try.

Karana lives alone for about eighteen years, using her ingenuity and knowledge of nature, managing to build several shelters, to make her own clothes and even to survive a tsunami. O’Dell’s writing is compelling. Told in the first person, Karana’s story is so vivid and detailed, that the reader cannot doubt the authenticity of her description of her solitary life on the island. I am greatly heartened by Karana’s eventual discovery that she does indeed long for human companionship. I suspect, however, that I simply cannot get past the tragic and violent death of Rami, Karana’s younger brother and only companion on the island, who is killed by wild dogs, one of which Karana later tames.

I have often recommended this book as a well-written tale about resourcefulness and fortitude and will continue to do so. Survival stories about girls are less common than those about boys (e.g. My Side of the Mountain), making this story a valuable addition to children’s literature. I am curious to know, however, how our Reading Matters fans feel about this book, and if there are any “classics” that they do not like.

A former teacher, Jennifer Minicus is now a full-time wife and mother living in Ridgewood, NJ.

Jennifer Minicus

Jennifer Minicus lives in New Jersey with her husband and son. A former French, Latin and mathematics teacher, Jennifer currently enjoys the responsibilities of a "domestic engineer", particularly making...