Newbery Challenge | Island of the Blue Dolphins (1961)

Newbery Challenge | Island of the Blue Dolphins (1961)Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2010-02-08
Genres: Action & Adventure, General, Girls & Women, Historical, Native American, Newbery Gold Winner, People & Places, Survival Stories, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 192
Goodreads
AmazonBarnes & Noble four-stars
Far off the coast of California looms a harsh rock known as the island of San Nicholas. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otter play in the vast kelp beds, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches. Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone, and this beautifully written novel is her story. It is a romantic adventure filled with drama and heartache, for not only was mere subsistence on so desolate a spot a near miracle, but Karana had to contend with the ferocious pack of wild dogs that had killed her younger brother, constantly guard against the Aleutian sea otter hunters, and maintain a precarious food supply. More than this, it is an adventure of the spirit that will haunt the reader long after the book has been put down. Karana's quiet courage, her Indian self-reliance and acceptance of fate, transform what to many would have been a devastating ordeal into an uplifting experience. From loneliness and terror come strength and serenity in this Newbery Medal-winning classic. In celebration of the book's 50th anniversary, this edition has a stunning new look, and an introduction by Lois Lowry, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Giver and Number the Stars.

PM_San_Nicholas_Island

Aerial images of the ocean scary. Satellite images are just plain terrifying. I will never go on a cruise and scuba diving is out of the question. The ocean is vast, endless. You can look up, down, left, right and still not know where you are. More importantly, you can’t see what monsters are sneaking up on you until they’re feasting on your limbs. The ocean is a place of nightmares. I could go into more detail, but this Buzzfeed post sums it up. Bad words could make it NSFW.

This has nothing to do with Island of the Blue Dolphins. I like to place an image under the book description to rest the eyeballs, so I thought it would be nice to include a picture of San Nicholas island for a point of reference. I had no idea I would find images lifted from my darkest nightmares.

I’m not sure I can write this post while staring into the face of evil, but I’ll try.

I really liked this book, which makes me suspect that the best books were written pre-1980 and all hope is lost for children’s literature. I look off into the horizon and all I see are quips and sound bites. Relax, I’m mostly kidding. I read and loved The Graveyard Book, and that was the 2009 winner.

Island of the Blue Dolphins has many of the characteristics I love in a book. There was history, adventure/survival, strong female characters, and a happy, but not overly-so ending.

Juana_Maria_(Hayward_&_Muzzall)

This is Juana Maria (name given to her by the missionaries who found her), the woman believed to be Karana, the 12 year old girl in O’dell’s book who gets left behind by her tribe. In real life, Juana Maria was alone on the island for 18 years until she was found in 1853 at the age of approximately 50.


Captain Nidiver reported on the encounter in his memoirs The Life and Adventures of George Nidever. The party consisted of himself, another hunter named Charley Brown, “an Irishman we called Colorado from his florid complexion” and four Mission Indians. They landed on the island in July, planning several months hunting. Shortly after their arrival they found an “old woman” stripping blubber from a piece of seal skin. According to Nidiver’s account, instead of running way “she smiled and bowed, chattering away to them in an unintelligible language.” She was “of medium height… about 50 years old but …still strong and active. Her face was pleasing as she was continually smiling… Her clothing consisted of but a single garment of skins.”

Nidever had been requested by the Fathers at the Mission Santa Barbara to “bring the lost woman off [the island] in case we found her” and that is what they did about a month later.

At this point, it was known that there was only one woman on the island, which explains the search. Over 20 years earlier, after an attack by poachers decimated the Nicoleño tribe (300 to 20), the mainland attempted to rescue those left and rebuild the tribe onshore (allegedly–who knows the real plan, honestly). Maria Juana, it is believed, begged to stay behind because she couldn’t find her young son. It took them 18 years to find her again.

The book paints a vaguely happy picture of Karana’s future, but Juana Maria’s future was far less romantic. It is said she was excited when she reached California. She was amazed by the horses, the fruits and vegetables, the architecture and buildings. She danced and sang for the town, who all came to see her. She spoke in a language no one understood, so members of another tribe of Native Americans were to come to visit to see if they could translate her language.

Unfortunately, Juana Maria died 7 weeks after reaching California from dysentery. How she contracted it is unknown, but some speculate it was from her indulgence of fruits, vegetables, and grains after decades of a diet centered on fish and seal blubber.

[pauses to allow people to regroup after major bummer]

I liked the book, and I can see why it won the Newbery, but reading about the real “Karana” had a far bigger impact on me.

The News

Library Fall 2014

Thank you so much for all the helpful comments on my Veggie Boy post! I haven’t had a chance to reply to them, but I will. I was out of the house yesterday and will be the rest of the week because…I’m the new 4th grade aide at the boys’s school! :)

It’s only a part-time position because I told them that while I would love to help in any way I can, I didn’t want that help to jeopardize the existence of the library. They looked at me like a was a little crazy because, like most schools in our area, there is no budget for a library.

“You do realize that if you kept the library open we wouldn’t be able to pay you, right?”

“Yes, but it’s important enough to me that I’ll do it for free.”

This may sound ridiculous to some, especially since we could use the money, but I don’t care. I have faith that this is what I am supposed to do. God provides us with what we need, and I need the library and those kids more than the small increase in money a full time aide paycheck would provide. The library has brought me joy and purpose. It’s an incredible feeling to touch the life of a child in a positive, long-lasting way. It’s jump-for-joy exciting to see a child fall in love with reading. As a school parent, it has been inspiring to see the power of a school in action. We, the school community, have come together to build something great. I have received so much money in donations to buy books. People trust me with their money! I’ve had parents empty their toy rooms of games and puzzles for the kids to play with during library. They have purged their home libraries of books their kids no longer read or have outgrown. They have donated decorations, bought Christmas trees, volunteered their time to help…it’s been amazing and heartwarming. The never ending supply of books for me to read hasn’t been a bad thing, either. (Except for Flora & Ulysses. There’s a handful of hours I’ll never get back.)

I’m expected to aide in a classroom with a teacher I love, then they want me to sit in a room full of books and kids and talk about what to read. Life is good.

Veggie Boy

Veggie Boy 2

I walked a few days last week, but I spent the majority of the time wrapping books, decorating the library, and painting the 4th grade classroom. Since I can sum up a week like that in one sentence (see above), I thought I’d talk about kids and how they can inspire action.

Immediately after bringing home Buttercup, Nico stopped eating chicken. Shortly after that he stopped eating beef, and not long after it was pork. Now we when go to restaurants he says, “I don’t eat cows or birds or pigs.” He eats veggie burritos or tacos at Mexican restaurants, burgers or sandwiches without the meat at casual dining spots, tofu stir-fries at Chinese restaurants (we’ve only been once because Mikey and the Mister don’t like Chinese food), and his favorite pizza is pineapple and onion.

People think it’s cute, but they think it’s just the whim of a 7 year old boy. Even I wondered about the strength of his dedication when we went to my mother in-law’s house. But he turned down her pot roast, which he loves, and when we asked him if he wanted gravy (true test) he said no because “gravy is made from cows.” He looked at us like we were dimwitted for not putting together the beef gravy = cow-thing.

Nico will occasionally eat fish. Dairy is a no-go unless it is an accent and even in tacos and burritos he asks for no cheese/sour cream.

Mikey says he doesn’t have what it takes to be a vegetarian.

Cooking to appease both boys has been challenging. Already I’m getting well-meaning advice from family and friends. Don’t let him eat soy. Don’t let him eat too many carbs. Were is he getting his protein? He’s going to get anemic. You’ll stunt his growth. The comments all come from a place of concern and love, so I don’t take offense.

The Mister isn’t a problem. He eats whatever I make and has already cut down the amount of meat he eats. He says Nico inspires him. The pediatrician said that I should not discourage Nico and that he wished all his patients were budding vegetarians. I have the support of Nico’s dad and his pediatrician, and that’s enough for me.

Nico says it’s important to him that I do this too, and of course I will. It’s not like he’s asking me to join him in his den of ill repute! That said, I do need some advice. We don’t know any vegetarian families. We definitely don’t know any vegan families. I’m not afraid of being different or trying something new. I consider this an exciting adventure and am up for the challenge. I’m hoping someone here has a vegetarian/vegan family that can lead the way and give me tips.

Happy, Happy

Goodbye

After 10 days of searching, I found a rescue organization licensed by California Fish and Game willing to take and rehabilitate Snickers. Up until Wednesday, everyone I contacted said the bird would be euthanized. Snickers was a pigeon, not a California Condor. Pigeons don’t rate when it comes to allocating resources. I understand. But understanding the reasons why doesn’t mean I have to accept them.

I was in the baby bird formula section of PetSmart, of all places, reading a popular online discussion board on pigeon care. I had searched the board for rescue organizations the day I found Snickers, without luck. Lots and lots of UK organizations, but nothing local to me. In one thread I read something about medicine and how you could buy it at bird feed stores. On a whim I decided to google “bird feed stores” and one came up in my area–I’ve actually been there for wild bird seed for our feeders outside! There, near the bottom of the site, was a link that said, “Have you rescued a wild bird?”

Yes! Yes I have!

I called the number listed for a rescue organization 20 minutes from my house–one I didn’t find in the previous 10 days of googling. I spoke at length with the woman and ensured she would not put Snickers down unless it was absolutely necessary. We agreed I should come over and show her Snickers and when I asked her if 11:15 was a good time she said, “That should work because I feed the squirrels at 11:00.”

That’s when I knew she was my people.

I pulled up 15 minutes early and waited at the gate. At 11:15 she walked out with a sparrow flying alongside her. I kid you not.

She confirmed what I already knew about Snickers: I found him when he was days old, putting him at about 2 weeks when I turned him in. Everyone (rescue organizations, vets, friends) kept asking me if I was sure he was a nestling, if maybe I didn’t pick up a bird that was just testing out its wings. The woman at the wildlife rescue organization is the only person who trusted my judgment over the phone when I said I had a very, very young bird on my hands that needed rehabilitation and release.

I’m positive Snickers is going to be happy in his new temporary home. There are many other birds there, as well as squirrels, raccoons, and opossums. He’ll get to grow in a very large pen for birds, and because he is so young, the woman is going to supplement his formula with wet dog food. What a relief he is in the hands of an expert!

Before I left I gave her a $20 donation and took one last look at Snickers’s horribly ugly-adorable yellow fuzzy head.

Since then, I’ve gone to check on Snickers several times before I remember he’s at his new for-now home. I catch myself checking the clock every few hours to see if it’s time for a bottle. Ah, well. Maybe my happy-happy is the tiniest bit bittersweet.

Newbery Challenge | Dear Mr. Henshaw (1984)

Newbery Challenge | Dear Mr. Henshaw (1984)Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
Published by Harper Collins on 2009-10-06
Genres: Classics, Family, Friendship, General, Marriage & Divorce, Newbery Gold Winner, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 176
Goodreads
Amazon five-stars
Beverly Cleary's Newbery Medal-winning book explores the thoughts and emotions of a sixth-grade boy, Leigh Botts, in letter form as he writes to his favorite author, Boyd Henshaw. After his parents separate, Leigh Botts moves to a new town with his mother. Struggling to make friends and deal with his anger toward his absent father, Leigh loses himself in a class assignment in which he must write to his favorite author. When Mr. Henshaw responds, the two form an unexpected friendship that will change Leigh's life forever. Supports the Common Core State Standards

Wrapping

This is my life right now. I’m wrapping books for the library with protective covers. I’ve done 100+ so far since Tuesday but, as you can see, I have a long way to go. There may be radio silence around here as I spend the next two weeks wrapping, organizing, and decorating the library for the school year. I’m taking pictures because I’m calling it a William Morris Project.

It’s very hard to sit on your duff for hours at a time wrapping books. I like a monotonous task as much as the next obsessive thinker, but even I need a break from monotony and hours of Netflix crime shows. When I need a mental break I read a Newbery. God knows I have enough of them at my feet!

I wasn’t going to post today, but I just finished Dear Mr. Henshaw and I’m so excited I had to tell someone. What an amazing book! Epistolary novels are some of my favorites! I had no idea Dear Mr. Henshaw was an epistolary novel! Exclamation points!

This is why I’m reading Newbery winners and this is why I’m trying to read more elementary/middle school books. I tried to get the kids to read this book last year, but because I didn’t know what it was about I couldn’t sell it very well. I’m not a salesperson. If I don’t like something or can’t tell you much about it, I won’t push it on you.

Now that I I’ve read Dear Mr. Henshaw, you can bet I’ll be encouraging the kids to give it a try. It’s an excellent book.

Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.