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This is the first authoritative edition of one of the most significant children’s books of the twentieth century. Winner of the 1961 Newbery Medal, Island of the Blue Dolphins tells the story of a girl left alone for eighteen years in the aftermath of violent encounters with Europeans on her home island off the coast of Southern California. This special edition includes two excised chapters, published here for the first time, as well as a critical introduction and essays that offer new background on the archaeological, legal, and colonial histories of Native peoples in California. Sara L. Schwebel explores the composition history and editorial decisions made by author Scott O’Dell that ensured the success of Island of the Blue Dolphins at a time when second-wave feminism, the civil rights movement, and multicultural education increasingly influenced which books were taught. This edition also considers how readers might approach the book today, when new archaeological evidence is emerging about the “Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island,” on whom O’Dell’s story is based, and Native peoples are engaged in the reclamation of indigenous histories and ongoing struggles for political sovereignty.
Scott O’Dell was the author of numerous books for children and adults. He received the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1972. Sara L. Schwebel is Associate Professor of English at the University of South Carolina, author of Child-Sized History: Fictions of the Past in U.S. Classrooms, and editor of the Lone Woman and Last Indians digital archive.
“In this fascinating and engaging book, Sara L. Schwebel explores the American and California history that inspired Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins. She presents never-published material about the writing and publishing history of the book, and by showing earlier drafts of the manuscript, she sheds light on the revision process. Schwebel provides the kind of scholarly study, based on archival materials and personal interviews, that is all too rarely undertaken for classic children’s books. Her important discussion of the portrayal of Native American characters in literature and the film industry needs to be read by everyone evaluating and thinking about books today.”—Anita Silvey, former publisher of Scott O’Dell and author of Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book
“It is hard to think of a work of children’s literature better served by a new critical edition than Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins. It is a wonderful combination of thought and magic.”—David Treuer, author of Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey through Reservation Life
“An invaluable edition of a classic of children’s literature. Schwebel’s masterful scholarly introduction sets this much-loved novel in a rich and fascinating historical context.”—Jill Lepore, author of Joe Gould’s Teeth
“This incisive, thoughtful, carefully researched critical edition of Scott O’Dell’s popular and problematic Island of the Blue Dolphins is incredibly timely and important. It will change the way California Indian history is taught in the public school system. Museums and cultural centers will also find the edition compelling, provocative, and useful.”—Michelle H. Raheja, author of Reservation Reelism: Redfacing, Visual Sovereignty, and Representations of Native Americans in Film
“Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins is at once a treasured American children’s book and a problematic account of Native American history and culture. For this reader’s edition, Schwebel has assembled a rich compilation of information—biographical, historical, archaeological, textual—that will inform and challenge readers.”—Clare Bradford, author of Unsettling Narratives: Postcolonial Readings of Children’s Literature