Island of the Blue Dolphins was written in 1960—and there you have challenge number one. For some, it's a bit difficult to get into the book. Writing styles have changed and in some ways, the style of this one might feel a bit dated, especially to those students who consider Harry Potter passé. However, you might remind your students that the book didn't win a Newbery Award for nothing. The beauty of Newbery Awards is that part of their purpose is to mark books whose message and story will never go out of style.
So combat the feeling that this book is dated by asking students how the themes are relevant today. What current social issues might be related to the message of this novel? Take the treatment of animals, for example, or poaching, a problem that still exists. Karana not only sees people mistreating animals, but she also has her own personal moral issues with it. Another example of a totally relevant topic is men's versus women's roles. How does Karana manage to get past this important cultural distinction? How are we still dealing with the issue of gender roles today? Is it okay for men and women to have gender specific roles? Why or why not? Point made: This book raises timeless questions, and these could even become the basis for an extended essay or project on the book.