Zia by Scott O’Dell

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Zia by Scott O’Dell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fourteen-year-old Zia has known for years about her aunt Karana, who was once left behind and has been living alone out on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Zia is determined to go out and find her aunt and bring her back to live with other Indians in Zia by author Scott O’Dell.

Because I just revisited Island of the Blue Dolphins and only learned a few days ago of this novel following it, I was curious to find out what the story of Karana’s niece is all about. However, I think it was only the glimpse into an unjust part of history that kept me interested in this second book: the depiction of people being forced to live and work at Christian missions as if for the sake of their souls.

I can appreciate an understated writing style, but I’m finding that a plot itself really has to engross me (like in Sing Down the Moon) in order for this particular author’s style not to be dull to me. Some parts of this story that got my attention came to anticlimactic ends, and it often felt like the plot didn’t really have anywhere it needed to go. Although the children’s classic that precedes this book isn’t a personal favorite of mine, I do have respect for the heroine Karana, and though her appearance in this book is relatively brief, I suspect that a lot of people who love her story in the earlier book will find her role in this one to be a regretful, unsatisfying, and likely unnecessary addendum.

I don’t know if I’ll try this author again in the future, but I’m not sorry I indulged my curiosity about this sequel.

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Here’s my review of Island of the Blue Dolphins.

 

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Karana is twelve years old when her people leave their island, but circumstances leave her behind. Her story of years of survival on her own unfolds in Island of the Blue Dolphins by author Scott O’Dell.

After recently reading and becoming engrossed in Sing Down the Moon by the same author, I decided to revisit this Newbery Medal-winning children’s classic based on true events. I remember listening to the reading of it back when I was eleven or so, but the author’s writing style didn’t do much for me back then.

So I tried again, curious to see if adulthood would give me a new appreciation for this book. As I read, it reminded me of the movie Cast Away at times, what with a lone human being fending for herself on an island: building shelter, hunting and gathering food, facing the elements and hostile wild animals, etc. And some parts here and there moved me, particularly near the beginning.

On the whole, though, this still wasn’t the most interesting book for me. Lots of solitude, very little dialogue, and although the heroine is a brave, self-reliant girl-turned-woman, I wouldn’t have stuck with this understated account about living in nature if I didn’t know it would be a quick read.

Still, because I have enjoyed one book by this author, I plan on trying at least one more.

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Here’s my review of the sequel to Karana’s story, Zia.

 

Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

When a teenaged Navajo girl is interrupted by Spanish slavers one day while she’s shepherding sheep, it’s only the beginning of a marked change in life for her and her people in Sing Down the Moon by author Scott O’Dell.

I remember listening to the reading of another book by this author, Island of the Blue Dolphins, back when I was eleven or so in school. I was vaguely interested at the time, listening with one ear, but this author’s writing style wasn’t my thing back then.

And I’ll admit I didn’t get far the first time I tried this book some months (or a year?) ago. With the heroine’s fear of being struck down by the gods if she ever displayed too much happiness, and her early mention about once seeing her long-dead grandfather walking around on a snowy night, my openly happy self who isn’t into seeing dead relatives figured I’d have to be in a different frame of mind to give the book another try sometime.

I’m glad I gave it another try.

I likely would have thought this children’s book was boring when I was a child, but now I can appreciate this kind of understated read that has unassuming beauty and muted but strong emotion. The joy resonated with me, and I could also feel the grief and shame caused by unjust treatment and tragedy affecting the young and old in this story. I was engrossed, needing to see what would become of this heroine, and the simplicity, warmth, relief, and triumph of her last four words in the book…just wow.

I remembered some important parts of American history, I learned a little more, and this historical fiction devotee may even try Island of the Blue Dolphins again in the future.