Sometimes to clear my head I go to the children's lit bookshelf in my daughter's bedroom (she is now in college), which was fully stocked long before she arrived because I've been collecting children's books for years, and I select a favorite to reread. Yesterday I selected and read this. It's the 6th or so time I've read it, and this is a cherished edition from my childhood.
It is such a simply but perfectly told story, and I've never lost my sense of awe about this character, a resourceful Ghalas-at Indian girl left to fend for herself after her people, all of them, are killed or taken away. She's based on a real person who lived alone from 1835 to 1853 on an island off the coast of California, who became known as the Lost Woman of San Nicolas. Despite an almost complete lack of drama in the telling of her predicament, her loss feels devastating, her pain intense, and her survival inspiring. It's just herself and Rontu, a wild dog she plans to kill who instead becomes a companion, but this is no Disney friendship and there's no slighting their initially brutal differences, resolved only when she proves herself capable of being leader of the pack. Never once have I become bored reading about their ensuing lives of quiet determination.
The Island of the Blue Dolphins was my home; I had no other. It would be my home until the white men returned in their ship. But even if they came soon, before next summer, I could not live without a roof or a place to store my food. I would have to build a house. But where? That night I slept on the rock and the next day began the search. The morning was clear, but to the north banks of clouds hung low. Before long they would move across the island and behind them many other storms were waiting. I had no time to waste. . .There was a place to the south where I could have built my house, near the destroyed village of Ghalas-at, but I did not want to go there because it would remind me of the people who were gone. The wind blew strong in this place, blowing against the dunes which cover the middle part of the island so that most of the time sand is moving everywhere. Rain fell that night and lasted for two days. I made a shelter of brush at the foot of the rock, which kept off some of the water, and ate the food I had stored in the basket. I could not build a fire because of the rain and I was very cold. On the third day the rain ceased and I went out to look for things which I would need in building the house. . .The morning was fresh from the rain. The smell of the tide pools was strong. Sweet odors came from the wild grasses in the ravines and from the sand plants on the dunes. I sang as I went down the trail to the beach and along the beach to the sandspit. I felt that the day was an omen of good fortune. It was a good day to begin my new home.