1. Discussion Questions
- I’d start with Karana’s relationship w/ Nature – w/ her island, and the animals in and around it, and the weather.
- e.g. Why does Karana spare the life of the leader of the wild dog pack – her enemy? Even she isn’t sure why – but it sure says something about her relationship w/ her island and the life in and around it. Try to goad children to explore and talk about this.
- further: : Karana describes Rontu as her friend – and admits she will miss him if he returns to the pack (and would be unable to kill him). Why does she not kill the two dogs fighting Rontu? (There’s something about how she says, “This was a battle between them and Rontu” that suggests she respects the natural dog order of things.)
- and further: After finishing his fight w/ the two wild dogs, Rontu lets out a great howl – which surprises Karana. She has never heard him make this sound before. She even says, “It was the sound of many things I did not understand.” What things?
- Then I think I’d ask students to think about Karana’s relationship w/ her ancestors. She respects them – but she’s also a little afraid of them. She tries to follow their rules, even though no one is there to enforce them. Why? Further, after visiting the cave w/ the eerie figurines, Karana resolves never to return. Why?
- And then one more dicey one on Nature:
- After her experience w/ the otter, Mon-a-nee/Won-a-nee, Karana resolves to kill no more otters or cormorants or seals or wild dogs or sea elephants. Ask students why…?
- (Karana says, “for the animals and birds are like people, too, though they do not talk the same or do the same things. Without them the earth would be an unhappy place.”)
4. Exploring Robinson Crusoe
- Island of the Blue Dolphins is a kind of Robinson Crusoe story – meaning the story of an individual trying to survive alone against the elements in an isolated environment. Such stories range from Robsinson Crusoe itself (by Daniel Defoe, 1719), to modern classics aimed at children, like Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen (1987), or My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George (1959), to adult fare involving sailors or mountain climbers. Interested students could be directed to read more works like this that are both inspiring and instructive about Nature and the elements.
- But students could also – obviously – write about such experiences as well. They might write of experiences they have had in the wild – or they might imagine such experiences and write (or be asked to write) about how they would survive in a scenario and environment of their choosing.