Island of the Blue Dolphins is one of the greatest novels ever written for intermediate readers. I prefer to teach reader's workshop, but I always save a place for Where the Red Fern Grows and Island of the Blue Dolphins. Scott O'Dell's story of Karana's eighteen years alone on an island crushes and inspires the seventh graders every year.
That's right, eighteen years on an island. Along the way she experiences death, friendship, forgiveness, and respect for nature. These are beautiful themes that are easily understandable through O'Dell's story. When Karana decides not to hunt for otters anymore, it makes sense to my students because they are her friends. There is no moralizing, just perfect sense.
My students are always amazed to learn that Island of the Blue Dolphins is fifty years old. Maybe because they too live on an island with not much to do, they always want to know if it's a true story (I find that is when you know a reader is hooked; when they desperately want what they are reading to be true). It's always fun to read the historical afterword (has that phrase ever been uttered?!) and discover more about the real 'Karana'. This is a wonderful book to read aloud with a loved one. Enjoy.