I read six books from California instead of three. Here are favorite quotes from the extra titles I read.

IslandBlueDolphins2From Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

“The first thing you would notice about our island, I think, is the wind. It blows almost every day.”

“The wide beds of kelp which surround our island on three sides come close to the shore and spread out to sea for a distance of a league.”

“I gathered gull eggs on the cliff and Ramo speared a string of small fish in one of the tide pools.”

“The laws of Ghalas-at forbade the making of weapons by women of the tribe, so I went out to search for any that might have been left behind.”

“The morning was fresh from the rain. The smell of the tide pools was strong. Sweet odors came from the wild grasses in the ravines and from the sand plants on the dunes.”

“All day Rontu had been barking – at the cormorants, the gulls, the seals – at everything that moved. Now he was quiet, watching the black thing in the water.”

“Far down, the sea ferns moved as though a breeze were blowing there.”

“Someday I wanted to make myself a skirt of cormorant feathers.”

“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.”

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac nirvana book coverFrom The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

“And all the other hopeful poets were standing around in various costumes, worn-at-the-sleeves corduroy jackets, scuffy shoes, books sticking out of their pockets.”

“We could hear creeks rushing coldly below on cold starlit rocks.”

“Morley woke up from his nervous small sleep of dawn, yawned, and yelled ‘Yodelayhee!’ which echoed toward vales in the distance.”

“A beautiful morning – red pristine shafts of sunlight coming in over the hill and slanting down into the cold trees like Cathedral light, and the mists rising to meet the sun, and all the way around the giant secret roar of tumbling creeks probably with films of ice in the pools.”

“Shaggy dogs were barking in the golden red sunlight slanting down from the hundred-foot branches of the firs and ponderosas.”

“Walking in this country you could understand the perfect gems of haikus the Oriental poets had written, never getting drunk in the mountains or anything but just going along as fresh as children writing down what they saw without literary devices or fanciness of expression.”

“Either side of the border, either way you slice the baloney, a homeless man was in hot water. Where would I find a quiet grove to meditate in, to live in forever?”

The Buddha in the AtticFrom The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

“At night we dreamed of our husbands. We dreamed of new wooden sandals and endless bolts of indigo silk and of living, one day, in a house with a chimney.”

“Were they still walking three steps behind our fathers on the streets with their arms full of packages while our fathers carried nothing at all?”

“We knew how to serve tea and arrange flowers and sit quietly on our flat wide feet for hours, saying absolutely nothing of substance at all.”

“A girl must blend into a room: She must be present without appearing to exist.”

I grew up on an island. How did I never read this?



I came to Island of the Blue Dolphins when I reached California, the fifth state on my literary tour of the United States. Because I am progressing through the states alphabetically, I arrived in California after spending several weeks in Arizona and Arkansas, and I was parched for a new experience. Island of the Blue Dolphins, with its gulls and sea spray, its abalone and kelp, was like a cool draft of water on a dry, dusty throat; it quenched my thirst.

I grew up on an island off the coast of Georgia (USA), and I am shocked that I never read this book as a child. Nearly every woman I know, when I mention the book, says “Oh my God, I LOVED that book when I was a little girl! I read it over and over again.” I admit that even as an adult I could read and reread. It is that wonderful.

Winner of the 1961 Newbery medal for children’s literature, The Island of the Blue Dolphins is the story of Karana, an 1800s native girl living with her people on an island off the California coast – the Island of the Blue Dolphins (San Nicolas Island, about 75 miles southwest of Los Angeles) – who comes to live alone on the island after a series of tragic events. The narrative is emotionally detached and the tragic events are not graphically described, so the book would not be too traumatic for children.

What I loved about this book is that the descriptions of Karana’s life on the island – in the 1800s, in a time before technology – are vivid and beautiful: I could hear the gulls and the crashing waves, I could smell the kelp and the sea air, I could taste the fish and the salt and the wind.

“Sweet odors came from the wild grasses in the ravines and from the sand plants on the dunes.”

“A fresh wind that smelled of kelp blew out of the northern sea.”

“I gathered gull eggs on the cliff and Ramo speared a string of small fish in one of the tide pools.”

“I knew it was spring because that morning at dawn the sky was filled with darting birds.”

“Far down, the sea ferns moved as though a breeze were blowing there.”

The Island of the Blue Dolphins was exactly what I needed after being landlocked in the dusty desert of Arizona and the cotton fields of Arkansas. I may have to buy a copy “for my children” to keep around the house.

From the author’s note: “The island called in this book the Island of the Blue Dolphins was first settled by Indians in about 2000 B.C, but it was not discovered by white men until 1602…The girl Robinson Crusoe whose story I have attempted to re-create actually lived alone upon this island from 1835 to 1853, and is known to history as The Lost Woman of San Nicolas.”