Island of the
By: Scott O’Dell
Your vocabulary words have been divided up into sections. You and
your group are responsible for knowing and/or being familiar with the
definitions of these words. These will be on the section quizzes!
Chapters 1-5 Chapters 6-10
gulls cormorants scan shrouded
otter kelp spring ponder
ravine intruder flee stout
Russian Aleuts fiber dune
leagues mesa stern vain
dolphin glistening pitched scurrying
skimming carcasses snarl lair
pelts dusk thrust mussel
bale surged uneasy headland
retreat abalones current stunted
Chapters 11-18 Chapters 19-22
sandspit brackish reef leeches
sinew legend shimmer lapped
utensils reed images pelican
forbade rival tangle broad
slash scatter enemy necklace
stalking fetch ledge loops
ancestor basin peer admire
herbs gnawed oval gesture
labored wound secret pierced
devilfish crevice flake harbor
shore strand anchor gash
reflection scarcely sheltered reproach
deserted smelt nest swoop
fledgling clipped teetering snare
frisked howl shield
Island of the Blue Dolphins is based on the actual life of an Indian
girl who was stranded on an island from 1835 to 1853. Through Scott
O’Dell, the fictional Karana tells her story of life on San Nicolas
Island off the coast of southern California. Her ability to face the
daily challenges relying on her courage and ingenuity enabled her to
survive alone with the animals she had befriended.
This novel study is divided into study units. Each section will
contain a set of questions and activities. Some activities will
require the use of research skills.
1. How old is Ramo?
2. Who is telling the story?
3. What is the time of the year? How do you know?
4. Why do the island people have two names?
5. Why did the Russian captain want to camp on shore?
6. Why did she miss the last part of the conversation between her
father and the Russian captain?
7. Why might the Indians’ good fortune bring them trouble?
8. Why did Chief Chowig say that the Aleuts were people who did not
9. What signs are there that the two groups do not trust each
1. Why did the Aleuts hunt in the kelp beds?
2. Explain the phrase “barely skimming the water”. (pg. 22-23)
3. Why did members of the Indians’ tribe count the number of sea
4. How did the Indians know that Captain Orlov and his crew were
preparing to leave? (Two reasons)
5. Give two reasons why the Russian Captain was in a hurry to
6. Was the Captain’s payment to Chief Chowig fair?
7. Why would the author, Scott O’Dell, begin chapter four with
gloomy weather? (Two reasons)
8. What to the Indians feel led to Karana’s father’s death? Do you
9. How does Karana feel about the Aleuts killing the otters for
10. What caused the battle? Was it necessary?
1. Make a list of qualities you look for in a friend. From what
you know of Karana and Ramo, which one would you like for a
2. Write a diamante poem to compare Karana and Ramo.
3. On a map, locate the Island of the Blue Dolphins, San Nicolas
4. Using information from the story, begin making a map of the
island. As new places are mentioned, imagine where they are
located and add them to your map.
5. List the characters who have been introduced so far. Next to
each, write two adjectives that best describe that person.
Select one character, other than Karana, to feature in an
acrostic poem. Write a word or a phrase beginning with each
letter in the person’s name.
6. Write two paragraphs to describe Captain Orlov and Chief Chowig.
Write a third to compare them as leaders.
1. Give two reasons why the first night after the fight was the
worst time in memory for the
2. Why were the dead not buried for three days?
3. What is abalone? Why would Ulape and Karana be asked to gather
4. What two things caused fall to be unpeaceful on the Island of
the Blue Dolphins?
5. Where did Kimki decide to go? When does he expect to return?
When does Kimki get back to the Island of the Blue Dolphins?
6. What to the villages to in case the Aleuts return? (Four
7. How was the arrival of the new ship both good and bad news?
8. Who was the new chief? How did he organize the tribe?
1. What does Karana pack before she is to leave the island? What
do these things say about her personality?
2. Karana writes that her sister was vainer that she was. Explain
what this means. What proof is there in chapter seven to prove
3. Ramo isn’t on board the ship. Give three reasons why this
4. Why does the ship leave without Ramo and his sister?
5. What would prevent the wild dogs from entering the village?
6. Who becomes the new chief of Ghales-at?
7. What is the new, dangerous problem on the island?
8. Why is Karana so determined to kill all the wild dogs? (Two
1. List the problems the people now faced and categorize them in
2. If for some reason you had to leave home, what would you take
with you? You can only take what you can carry. Make a list.
1. Karana is very sad at the beginning of chapter nine. Give two
reasons why you know this.
2. Why does she decide to leave the village?
3. Give three reasons why the location of her home was a good one.
4. Why does Karana search for weapons?
5. Why does Karana decide not to wear the beads?
6. Scott O’Dell gives the end of chapter nine a peaceful feeling.
How does he do this?
7. Why is the first winter storm in chapter ten bad news?
8. Why would a fire offer Karana protection?
9. What proof do you have that Karana is always ready to escape the
10. Why does Karana decide to leave the island? Why does she
11. Give three reasons Karana is happy to be back on the
1. When Karana finally got back to her island and looked around,
she realized that she was happy to be home. Use the following
quotation as a model for writing about your own home:
“Everything I saw -- … -- filled me with happiness.” Mention at
least four items.
2. Write a diamante poem comparing the beauty and wonder of nature
(ocean, stars, or something else on the island) to your home
here in Regina. As Karana looked around her island home, she
saw things differently.
1. How did Karana feel after she returned to the island? Why?
2. How had her ideas about living on the island changed? Give two
reasons. (see pg. 69 for help)
3. What did she realize after abandoning her canoe voyage?
4. How did Karana decide where she would build her new home? (Give
at least two reasons – I know of four!)
5. Why does Karana think a particular day was “an omen of good
fortune”? What is “an omen of good fortune”?
6. Why does Karana build a fence? How does she show herself to be
inventive and creative?
7. List some of the things Karana does in building her house.
Explain how each is important for survival. List at least three
things and what it meant.
8. Karana has been making, finding and adapting tools. Make a list
and describe their use in a single sentence.
1. Animal Study: Dolphins
Karana considered the arrival of the dolphins a good
omen. Find out more about these sea animals who weave
their way through the ocean. Combine art and words in a
dolphin-shaped concrete poem.
2. In writing, describe a scene from the story. Draw a picture
that goes with your written description.
3. Write a factual explanation for the missing trees.
1. Explain completely the problem Karana has with tribal laws and
survival laws when she thinks about sea elephants.
2. A simile is a comparison using like or as. Find at least two
similes and explain their meaning.
3. Who does Karana wish to survive in the sea elephant bull fight?
4. Why does Karana leave the bull fight?
5. How does she treat her injuries?
6. Where does Karana take shelter from the wild dogs when she is
7. Why do you think the wild dogs didn’t attack Karana as they had
8. List at least three ways Karana adapted the cave into a house.
9. Who returns to the island?
10. What time of year is it?
11. What three things does Karana do to keep herself a secret?
1. Give two reasons Karana believes the leader of the wild dogs is
an Aleut dog.
2. What does Karana do with the leader of the wild dogs? Why does
she do this?
3. What does she name her new pet? Why is naming the dog
4. Describe fully how Karana and Rontu’s relationship
a. is being:
c. How is their relationship different? Why did it change?
5. What is the great discovery?
6. What is a devilfish?
7. Give three reasons Karana is happy at the end of chapter
1. Animal Study: Sea Elephants
Sea Elephants, or elephant seals, are so named because
of their large, thick elephant-like hides and the large
noses of the males. Read and organize information about
this sea mammal. Compare their activities on land and
in the ocean.
2. Write a factual explanation for the missing trees.
1. Tell about the two different methods Karana uses to make the
2. Why does Karana say the fight is “a battle between the others
3. Why doesn’t Karana help Rontu?
4. What is the result of the dog fight? (There are three, name
5. Why does Karana dress up in her yucca shirt and sandals?
6. Why would Karana talk to and treat Rontu like a human?
7. Why is chapter 18 a happy chapter?
8. How does O’Dell show/create the happy mood in chapter 18?
1. Find the first three words of the paragraph and page number
a. Karana decides to look for the devilfish later.
b. How seagulls manage to eat scallop meat.
c. Devilfish like deep water.
d. Karana’s prey hops to escape to a cavern.
e. Devilfish are to be approached carefully on land and water.
2. Who spotted the devilfish first?
3. How did Karana kill the devilfish?
4. List the tools she used in her battle with the devilfish.
(There are three.)
5. What proof do we have that she misses the children?
6. What is Black Cave? Describe it.
1. Animal Study: Devilfish
Karana fought a devilfish, a giant octopus. Unless
threatened, an octopus avoids confrontations. Read to
find more information. How does the octopus move,
breathe, eat, and escape detection? Make a list of
2. Write a sensory poem describing the sights, sounds, and smells of
spring on the island.
1. When did Karana and Rontu leave the cave? Why?
2. How did Karana change her life while the Aleuts were on the
island? (There are three ways, I want 2 reasons.)
3. Why would Karana spend time making a cormorant skirt?
4. How did Karana measure time? Why?
5. Why did Karana meet the Aleut girl?
6. Describe Tutok. Use phrases from the novel. (List four
7. What is the beginning of the girls’ friendship?
8. What makes Karana forget how sore her fingers were from boring
holes in the hard shells?
9. Give two reasons for the island being very quiet at the end of
1. Pretend Karana and Tutok could speak the same language. What do
you think they would talk about? Make up a dialogue between
2. Make an accordion book. Begin with a long narrow piece of
paper. Fold it into equal parts. Except for the cover, write
on only one side of each sheet. Use it for the friendship
booklet in the next activity.
3. “A friend is someone who is…” List the qualities that are
necessary to form a lasting friendship. Place one trait on each
page of the accordion book.
4. Animal Study: Cormorants
Karana’s skirt, made from the skins of cormorants, was
special. The feathers shimmered in the sun. Find out
more about this sea bird. Use an encyclopedia, field
guide, and other sea bird references to determine
1. Write the first three words of the paragraph and page number
a. The Aleuts were cruel hunters.
b. After being caught, the injured otters died.
c. Karana names the otter
d. Why Karana had to wait to catch fish
e. Karana is lonely
2. Who is mon-a nee?
3. How does Karana tame the otter?
4. What does Karana wish for in chapter 23? What does this tell
5. How does the feeling of spring differ in chapter 24 from other
6. Why does Karana rename an old friend?
7. Karana changes her attitude towards animals. Why?
1. How do you know Karana is ready for the possible return of the
2. Why does Karana stop measuring time?
3. O’Dell shows many ways Rontu was important to Karana. List four
from this chapter.
4. Describe the three ways Karana attempts to capture Rontu’s son.
5. Write the first three words of the paragraph and page number
a. The animals remember hunters.
b. Rontu is not lively like he once was.
c. Why Karana stays overnight in the cave.
d. Karana misses how Rontu used to be.
e. Karana’s snares don’t work as planned.
f. She catches the dog by drugging him.
g. Karana is still lonely.
1. What was it like on the island during each of the four seasons?
Draw four scenes showing the island at different times of the
2. Animal Study: Sea Otters
From the story, you know that sea otters were hunted for
their fur. You learned something of their feeding
habits and how they care for their young. Do additional
reading to find more information about the sea otter.
1. What did Karana make for her eyes? Why?
2. What happens to the island on page 166?
3. Why does Karana climb to a cliff? How long does she stay there?
Why doesn’t she sleep?
4. What happens to the island at the end of chapter 27? Where does
Karana run and hide? Is this a good place? Why?
5. What did Karana lose after what happened in chapter 27?
6. What event took Karana away from her canoe rebuilding work?
7. What has Karana decided to do if a ship comes to the island?
8. What were the last things Karana thought about as she left the
Island of the Blue Dolphins?
1. Special Study: Tidal Waves
Tidal waves or tsunamis are usually the result of
earthquakes that cause the water to move rapidly. Read
to learn more about earthquakes and tsunamis and their
effects on people and land.
2. What questions would you like to ask Karana about the eighteen
years she spends alone on the island?
3. When Karana came to the Santa Barbara Mission, the local
newspaper learned of her arrival. Write an article for the
paper reporting her first days on the mainland.
4. Pretend you are Karana. You are thinking about your life before
you left the island. Make a list of all the good things that
happened to you.
1. Begin to compile a class A to Z quilt about the island. You
are responsible to think of as many things as you can that begin
with the letters of the alphabet and are related to the island.
Use words, phrases, sentences, and pictures to express your
ideas. We will put the letter in the upper left-hand corner and
the word in the lower right-hand corner. In the middle space,
you will draw a picture to illustrate the word.
2. Create a board game that makes use of a map of the island.
Include scenes from the story, places Karana visited, and things