Books by Scott O'Dell

THUNDER ROLLING IN THE MOUNTAINS by Scott O'Dell
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1992

Seen through the eyes of Chief Joseph's daughter, Sound of Running Feet, O'Dell's last novel (coauthored and completed after his death by his wife) recounts the circuitous, tragic journey of the Ne-mee-poo (Nez Perce) from their Oregon home to the Lapwai Reservation in Idaho. Wisely recognizing that there's no way to fight the entrenching whites, Chief Joseph counters calls to war from dissenting tribal leaders and agrees to lead his people on what becomes an epic ordeal. Attacked by settlers en route, they win some battles against the "Blue Coats,"but the decimated tribe makes it into Crow territory only to find that their former allies are in league with the Army. Heading for refuge with Sitting Bull in Canada, they're caught in a surprise attack that leaves no choice but surrender. Bringing this bleak historical episode to life in spare, supple prose that echoes Joseph's own dignified words, the authors offer a fascinating look at the heroism of ordinary people. While the strong-willed narrator, her father, and her brave betrothed at first seem larger than life, it is quickly apparent that they don't consider themselves as such; and though she wishes she could fight, the girl dutifully takes her place caring for the young and the infirm. The authors don't tone down war's violence; they simply present it with unembellished clarity that is certain to leave a lasting impression, ending on a memorable note of reconciliation. A fitting end to a distinguished career. (Fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >
ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Scott O'Dell
ADVENTURE
Released: Oct. 1, 1990

An outstanding new edition of this popular modern classic (Newbery Award, 1961), with an introduction by Zena Sutherland and a dozen compelling full-page watercolor illustrations to enchant new readers and old friends. Read full book review >
MY NAME IS NOT ANGELICA by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: Oct. 1, 1989

A 16-year-old slave gift witnesses the 1733 rebellion of slaves against Dutch planters in the Virgin Islands. Raisha, daughter of a powerful tribal counselor, and her fiancé, Prince Konje, are sold into slavery by a rival tribe. Raisha becomes the body slave of a plantation owner's wife, who renames her Angelica because of her sweet smile. Hit by drought and hurricanes, the struggling owners enforce long hours, provide rotten food, and cruelly punish even small infractions. Many slaves, including Konje, join a runaway camp; every night their drums tell of the coming rebellion. But when Raisha joins the rebels, she finds them starving and almost weaponless. Eventually, French troops summoned from Martinique trap the slaves, who all—except Raisha—choose to jump from the sea cliffs rather than return to slavery. On Martinique, Raisha bears Konje's child and gains her freedom. There are about five stories here, each overly brief and sparsely told. Konje is transformed from a spoiled, immature prince to a rebel leader without a single scene of character growth. The plantation owners are one-dimensionally crude and cruel. There are glimpses of intriguing, sumptuous African kingdoms and moments of compelling drama, as when Raisha witnesses the death of a fellow slave; but the story needs more substance to capture the appetites of young readers for this chapter in history. Read full book review >
BLACK STAR, BRIGHT DAWN by Scott O'Dell
ADVENTURE
Released: April 1, 1988

When her father's injuries force him to drop out of the annual dog-sled race from Anchorage to Nome—the 1179-mile Iditarod—Bright Dawn takes his place. Bright Dawn (18) hunts with her father till an experience adrift on an ice floe makes him so fearful that his family moves inland to Ikuma, a checkpoint on the Iditarod. There. as a gifted dog-handler, he is drafted for the great race; and sponsors agree, out of need, to accept his daughter as his substitute—she has been helping him train and has a special relationship with Black Star, the independent-minded lead dog. At Anchorage, Bright Dawn is befriended by Oteg, an experienced racer whose nine daughters spurn his advice—Bright Dawn agrees to accept at least some of it. The narrative focuses on their race together—the strategy of holding back at the onset and of timing rest periods, building igloos, helping other competitors; the dangers come from the rough, frigid terrain and encounters with wolves and moose, so that (at least for these participants) cooperation for survival comes to outweigh the race itself. Still, by taking some of Otek's advice, balanced by Black Star's instincts and her own sense, Bright Dawn is running first at a crucial point; and though she comes far from winning, her moral victory is satisfying. O'Dell's focus on Bright Dawn intensifies the drama of her struggle against the wilderness and its lesson in self-reliance; it may also leave readers wondering how different the other racers' experiences might be. As she returns to her own father, even Otek vanishes—where did he place? Still, readers will share a splendid, vividly written adventure with Bright Dawn; perhaps that is enough. Read full book review >
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 1987

Although she meets King James of England and is invited to come and write letters at court because of her fair penmanship, Serena Lynn takes a ship for the New World, following the fortunes of Anthony Foxcroft, hot-blooded son of the Countess who had employed her. She wears a serpent ring given her by King James; he told her it would protect her. The ship wrecks off Bermuda; although there is ample to eat, there is faction and dispute among the survivors. Foxcroft then sets out on a small vessel constructed from the wreckage, but only bits of it are ever seen again. Finally, in a larger ship, the colonists reach Jamestown, finding the settlers there decimated. Aware of the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, Serena decides to find the Indian maiden and beg assistance of her to help the starving colonists. She becomes part of a plot to kidnap Pocahontas, and is instrumental in the romance between her and John Rolfe. Serena marries; she and her husband protect Pocahontas in a sland-olf with the Indian; their cabin burns but all survive. Pocahontas notes that Serena is calm, while Pocahontas will soon be dead, and that the ring makes her calm. Serena throws the ring into the fireplace with vague regret. Later, news of Pochontas' death in England comes to the colony. This historical tale is at times confused—as with the factions in Bermuda—and at times disjointed. Pocahontas is right: Serena is too calm, and so dispassionate that we cannot really identify with her. Young readers might do better with Frances Mossiker or Jean Fritz as biographers. Read full book review >
STREAMS TO THE RIVER, RIVER TO THE SEA by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: April 1, 1986

A fictionalized version of the story of Sacagawea, the young woman who traveled with Lewis and Clark on their expedition across America. Sacagawea, a Shoshone, is captured by a neighboring tribe and be. comes the prize in a game of chance. A French-Canadian trapper, Toussaint Charbonneau, is the winner, and, at 13, Sacagawea becomes his wife. O'Dell traces the familiar story as Sacagawea, with her husband and new baby, travels as guide to Lewis and Clark. Here O'Dell departs from history—Sacagawea falls in love with Clark, and so stays with the expedition through hardships and suffering. As the party journeys home, Clark tries to persuade Sacagawea to return to the land of the white man, where she and her young son can go to school. Instead Sacagawea steals away and returns to the land of the Shoshone. This book captures the excitement of discovery that early explorers must have felt. Though written as a novel rather than biography, a note about sources and/or a map of the journey would be welcome. The language is eloquent and stately, if slow-moving. Although there is little character development, Sacagawea is captivating. A satisfying historical chronicle. Read full book review >
THE AMETHYST RING by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: April 27, 1983

Here concludes O'Dell's dazzling drama of the temptation, fall, and redemption of Julian Escobar, the 16th-century Spanish seminarian who came in The Captive to rule a New World island as the Mayan god Kukulcan. Having witnessed the fall of Moctezuma in The Feathered Serpent, Julian returns to prepare the defense of his own island against the inevitable coming of Cortes. But Julian's dwarf companion deserts him with their ship filled with Aztec gold; the island falls to Cortes without a struggle; and Julian, escaping, becomes a solitary wanderer, wearing the amethyst ring of a captured Spanish bishop Julian had allowed his Mayan priest to kill after the bishop refused to ordain Julian. He stays in a nearby village until the gold-hungry Spanish come and kill its friendly cacique. Traveling south, he sells woven hats at a market stall and is disheartened when an African child he has bought and set free dies of a Spanish fever. Further South, he sells beautiful feathered capes for a rich Mayan trader. ("I had nothing. I wanted nothing.") Always dodging Cortes, he ends up with Pisarro's army, sickened by their massacre of the Inca and failing hopelessly in love with the Inca king's daughter. By then Julian has come to sympathize wholly with the Indian victims against the Spanish conquerors and their priests, but he never gives up his Spanish religion. Dispirited, he returns to Spain to find the dwarf ensconced as the Marquis of Santa Cruz and the Seven Cities. "You always had a heavy conscience," observes the dwarf, as Julian gives up both his dream of priesthood and his share of the dwarf's gold to join a lay order, the Brothers of the Poor—a weary renunciation that could come only after the once-untried idealist had won and lost and soured on power and glory. This evolution, and the small choices Julian makes along the way, have remained the compelling focus of a trilogy crackling with intrigue, historical spectacle, and the conflict of cultures that confounds his loyalties.? Read full book review >
THE SPANISH SMILE by Scott O'Dell
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Oct. 25, 1982

It's difficult to remember that this island castle, domain of the fanatical tyrant Don Enrique de Cabrillo y Benivides and prison for his beautiful daughter Lucinda, is a contemporary setting. That is the intent of Don Enrique, who won't allow electricity, radio, or newspapers on the island and forbids his daughter to visit the mainland or read anything published in the 20th century. Don Enrique also boasts of having sealed up his wife's lover in her closet (the stone wall he had built still stands, though the wife has fled), and he has imported a succession of pretty young gringas, none of whom has met his standards for a mistress. In the course of the story, after Lucinda has made one unsuccessful attempt to escape the island, and after the eighteenth gringas has been sent off (her offense was playing a modern record on a forbidden player) and a nineteenth, more promising replacement arrives, Lucinda becomes aware that all is hot right: The eighteen rejected gringas have not been sent home but lie in eighteen crystal caskets in the castle cellar vault; and—between importing conquistadors' bones for reburial and ordering a nineteenth casket—Don Enrique is currently plotting to seize a nearby atomic power plant as part of his plan to regain the land from Spain and effect revenge upon the gringos. After all this, Lucinda's shock of recognition comes across as a bit anticlimactic: "At this moment, as I met his gaze, all of the suspicions that had built up in me during the past weeks suddenly came together in one unshakable truth. My father, Don Enrique de Cabrillo y Benivides, was deranged." The melodrama comes to a head when Don Enrique is killed by the deadly bushmaster snake that guards the caskets, and Lucinda, aided by a coast guard cutter and a young anthropologist in her father's employ, must battle Don Enrique's island army and his sinister henchmen to gain control of the island and her own future. Hokey extravaganza with a vengeance, but sure to find its breathless audience. Read full book review >
THE FEATHERED SERPENT by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: Oct. 26, 1981

At the end of The Captive (1978), we left the shipwrecked young seminarian Julian Escobar assuming the identity of the reincarnate god Kukulcan—the alternative to a ritual death—and surveying the Mayan island city-state he now rules in that capacity. In this first-person narrative, Julian still expresses horror at the human sacrifices he doesn't dare order stopped, and still determines to bring the word of his own true God to the Mayans. But it is more likely the greater honor and glory of Julian-as-Kukulcan, an assimilation he accepts with ease, that impels his new preoccupation with restoring the ruined city to its former splendor; and he has no qualms about sending his army off for slaves to do the work. It is Julian's need for yet more worker-slaves that inspires his ill-considered grand scheme: he will journey to the city of the mighty Moctezuma to observe the Aztec's strategies of conquest, with a view to amassing a similar kingdom for himself. As Julian's skeptical and hostile priest has foressen, Moctezuma's response to their visit is to promise an imminent glorious death for the tall blond stranger and his Spanish compatriot, the dwarf who had set him up as a god. But as the two are not yet ready to become hummingbirds, they flee Tenochtitlan. . . and find themselves drafted into the invading army of the ruthless Cortes. In this strong middle volume, in which much is set in motion but little is decided, O'Dell gives us an interesting though not revealing view of the great Moctezuma's "confused" last days, a lightning-like spectacle of multifarious intrigue, and, above all, a shrewd, set-back, wait-and-see look at Julian's loyalties and perceptions in formation. Read full book review >
THE CAPTIVE by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: Oct. 24, 1980

This brilliant first volume in a projected sequence begins when Julian Escobar, an idealistic 16-year-old seminarian in early 16th-century Spain, is part bullied, part lured by the promise of savage souls and a future Bishopric, to accompany imperious young Don Luis to the nobleman's New World island. Almost there, the party stops at another island, where Julian becomes sympathetic with the natives he hopes to convert. There too, his wavering moral character seems to grow firmer in resistance to Don Luis' abusive treatment and planned enslavement of the Indians. Then, after a shipwreck, Julian and Don Luis' horse make it to a seemingly deserted island. In time a young girl appears, attracted by the horse, and teaches Julian her peoples' language, customs, and abhorrent (to him) religion—as he postpones plans to teach her of Christ. He never meets the island's other inhabitants; but at last he is visited by a Spanish dwarf, survivor of a previous shipwreck, who forces Julian to choose between death at the hands of barbaric natives and glory as their god Kukulcan (a Mayan version of the Aztec Quetzalcoatl), who had promised to return as a tall, blond youth. We leave Julian, arrayed as the god, surveying his newly acquired domain—sickened by the human sacrifices being made in his honor, but stirred moments later by visions of empire. And O'Dell leaves readers impatient for further developments. It is a measure of his seriousness and his skill that the suspense focuses not on events, which have so far been swift and stunning, inevitable and unexpected, or on the artfully foreshadowed intrigue, confrontations, and dangers that are sure to follow, but on Julian's moral choices and on what he will make of his false, exalted position. Read full book review >
SARA BISHOP by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: April 23, 1980

In the early days of the Revolutionary War, Sara Bishop's Tory father is killed and their farmhouse burned by hoodlum Patriot Boys. Her brother, in the Patriot Army, dies a prisoner on the British ship Scorpion. Sara, 15, is arrested by the British, wrongly accused of setting the Trinity Church fire that breaks out when she is tracking down her brother in New York. She escapes, takes brief jobs in inn kitchens to stake her supplies, and then—still fleeing the British and desirous of solitude—sets up housekeeping in a "wilderness area" cave. At this point Sara has rejected the Bible that seems to have failed her, and is as determined to reject human help and company. A musket is her constant companion, and a white bat her pet. She has used the musket's threat to escape Sam Goshen, a man who gave her a wagon lift, then tried to rape her; and she uses it again when an Indian appears and claims that the cave area land is "mine." (In a reversal of the usual scene, Sara tries to explain that she doesn't claim the land but doesn't intend to move.) Later Sam Goshen turns up near her cave, caught in his own poisoned bear trap, and she reluctantly saves him, taking him into the cave until he is well enough to be shut out. Alone, she suffers from a poisonous snake bite and spends days on the edge of life. But a nice young Indian couple come by too, and help her to smoke fish and make a dugout canoe. Later, a young Quaker from whom she buys supplies takes an interest in her and invites her to Meeting. Her appearance in town lands her in prison again, this time for witchcraft; but the Quaker's reasoned persuasion saves her from trial and certain condemnation. In the end, Sara is back in her cave but has established the tentative contact that promises to win her back to society. O'Dell's affectless short sentences well suit Sara's numbed responses; however, without any heightening or variation, they make the story seem, after a while, to be taking Sara in and out of one dager after another. (There are so many.) It is, though, her own resourcefulness that gets her out each time; there is some small, undramatic progression in her withdrawal and incipient healing; and the adventure, historical background, survival mechanics, and inner condition are well integrated. Read full book review >
KATHLEEN, PLEASE COME HOME by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: March 1, 1978

The diary of a runaway girl, whose dismal experiences are attributed largely to "going along" with a bad companion. Early on, Kathleen, just 15, becomes engaged to a young wetback who warns her against the drugs friend Sybil is so free with. But Ramon is arrested and later killed in a raid, and when Kathleen realizes that it was her concerned, English-teacher mother who turned him in, she accepts Sybil's invitation to take off for Mexico. There life is a series of ups, downs, bags of horse, and angel dust. The two girls split when Kathleen learns that she's pregnant by Ramon, but get together again in time for an auto accident that is fatal to both Sybil and Kathleen's unborn baby. (That makes two too many convenient disasters, both of which free Kathleen from commitments.) The end sees Kathleen and Joy, another convalescent druggie, throwing away Sybil's valuable stash of heroin and heading into a straight future. O'Dell undoubtedly knows the scene better than many writers who would warn YAs on drugs, but still his social worker's presence can be felt at nearly every turn. Of course this sort of material has an enduring fascination for daydreaming stay-at-homes. Read full book review >
CARLOTA by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 1977

Raised as a sort of surrogate for brother Carlos who died at two, Carlota brands stock and rides with the vaqueros, wears deerskin trousers, and beats the young men in a horse race during her younger sister's wedding celebration. But even though she loves to ride and is happy that it's Yris and not herself that her father is marrying to the pudgy neighboring rancher, Carlota feels the strain of playing Carlos. And she's dismayed when her father includes her in the heavily outnumbered band, armed only with lances, which he is leading against the already victorious gringos simply to uphold the Spanish Californians' honor. (This is 1846.) Only after her father is mortally injured and Carlota herself has wounded a young gringo in self-defense does she gain the understanding and courage to assert her own feelings—feelings considered shameful by her father, seemly perhaps by the grandmother who would raise her a lady, womanly (one infers) by O'Dell, and merely human to most of today's readers. The lancers' battle is a real one and Carlota partly based on an actual Californian; besides the historical veracity O'Dell fills out his thin, commonplace plot with characteristic narrative vitality, sharp (if simple) characterization, and genuine period color. Read full book review >
THE 290 by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: Oct. 27, 1976

As trim a tale as you'd expect from Scott O'Dell, but one more than a little narrow in the beam—just like the Confederate raider Alabama, on which the hero sees action and defeat in the Battle of Cherbourg. Sixteen-year-old Jim Lynne, the son of a New Orleans slave trader and brother of a Yankee spy, is loyal to the ship he helped build as an apprentice in a Liverpool shipyard and to the dashing Captain Raphael Semmes. This, despite Jim's anti-slavery feelings and a near-mutinous detour that he and black crewmate Lem Wilson take on one of Semmes' prize ships to release a warehouse-full of the elder Lynne's Haitian slaves. The point seems to be that loyalty is more a matter of the heart than of the head, and even that point is made only diffidently and inconclusively, though as usual O'Dell's seamanship and yarnsmanship are impeccable. Read full book review >
ZIA by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: March 29, 1976

Zia is a fictional character but spiritual heir to the factually based Karana who returns from the Island of Blue Dolphins only to die without ever being able to adjust to the restrictions of mission life. Zia, who is Karana's niece, believes from the beginning that Karana will join her; twice she and a younger brother set out to row to the island but are pulled back—first, literally, by a giant marlin and later when they are kidnapped by Yankee whalers. And when Karana is finally rescued Zia is in prison for refusing to cooperate with the authorities after a mass defection of mission laborers. Zia's resistance takes the form of dignified passivity until Karana's death frees her from the only human tie she feels and she sets out, alone and expectant, for the home in the mountains she remembers from childhood. Though Zia is a survivor of a vanished tribe, her isolation and detachment in the midst of society carry disturbing implications that were left implicit in Karana's archetypal sojourn. However, her escape softens the tragedy of Karana's death among people who can't communicate with her and who regard her as crazy. And Zia's narrative continues the laconic precision and sober beauty we remember from Island of Blue Dolphins. Read full book review >
THE HAWK THAT DARE NOT HUNT BY DAY by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: Oct. 8, 1975

Bible smuggling in the days of Henry VIII is the topic of this reticent though admirably researched demi-adventure. Tom Barton, who is given reason to expect that he is the rightful owner of his Uncle Jack's ship The Black Pearl, is drawn into a plan to smuggle William Tyndale's English translation of the New Testament. After Uncle Jack is arrested and thrown into Clink where he dies of the Black Plague (the enigma of his personality still unresolved), Tom finds himself forced into accepting a business partnership with ratlike Herbert Belsey and fanatical Henry Phillips, two of Tyndale's most determined enemies. Most of the characters (though not the Bartons) are historical; however the appearance of Juan de Palos, Christopher Columbus' pilot, on the Black Pearl's roster stretches plausibility a bit far. And the period background is full-bodied—right down to the pubs, populated appropriately by "gixies, fustylegs and drunken sailors." Certainly O'Dell writes well enough to integrate the non-violent flight and martyrdom of the saintly Tyndale with the original mood of raffish action/entertainment. Yet readers drawn by the adventure might balk at the more reflective turn of events after Tom fails to save his friend Tyndale, his involvement with Belsey peters out, and he eventually forgives the much chastened Phillips. Worthwhile, though the parts are more interesting than the whole. Read full book review >
CHILD OF FIRE by Scott O'Dell
Released: Sept. 4, 1974

A probation officer wouldn't seem to be a very promising narrator for a story about Chicano youth, but in this case he turns out to be the right kind of concerned but neutral observer, one distanced enough to reduce the character of young gang leader Manuel Castillo to a series of dramatic, highly symbolic gestures. We first meet Manuel in the bullring, where he leaps from the stands to confront a charging bull and, hopefully, demonstrate his machismo to a young lady; he is last seen throwing himself under a mechanical grape picker in a desperate gesture of defiance against the automation of the local vineyard. In between, Manuel's naive but fiery idealism pits him against Ernie Sierra — a smooth operator and leader of the rival Owls who turns out to be smuggling heroin from Mexico via homing pigeons. Like the bull and cock fights that apotheosize the action, Manuel's nobility can best be appreciated as an aesthetic abstraction; Odell tells the tale — and it's a compelling one — with enough laconic conviction to make this possible, while at the same time using the skeptical comments of the officer's pragmatic minded wife Alice as a foil. And when we question whether the officer really sees the truth about Manuel, then we remember that his reactions are filtered through his own frequently expressed sense of futility and uninvolvement. Contemporary parables are a tricky business; O'Dell invests this one with a self-contained dignity, and it can be read as a psychological thriller even while one is pondering just how deep the vein of fatalism really runs. Read full book review >
THE CRUISE OF THE ARCTIC STAR by Scott O'Dell
FRIENDS AND SCHOOL
Released: March 23, 1973

Only Scott O'Dell could turn an uneventful cruise up the Pacific coast into a suspenseful adventure based entirely on his growing suspicions about the reliability of the Arctic Star's hired skipper and, at the same time, conduct a grand tour from the confines of the boat's cabin. The psychological warfare between O'Dell and the happy-go-lucky Rod grows as Rod backs up his reluctance to work by suggesting O'Dell reread passages about the slavedriving captain in Two Years Before the Mast (adding hints of shipboard mutiny to what might be merely a personality dash). The culmination comes in a smashing storm scene where the O'Dells are on hand to see Rod, who has jumped ship previously, sink his new employer's boat and still come out a hero for saving passengers from the wreck he caused. In the lulls between his clashes with Rod, the author spins tales (about Father Serra, Kit Carson's ordeal on Starvation Peak, and Jed Smith's encounter with a grizzly bear), mourns the passing of California's sea otters and the depletion of the ecologically important kelp beds, and looks back to his own arrival in the state as a young boy. While the Arctic Star is real, this is definitely a novelist's interpretation, the voyage a framework for all those scenes from the California past which the author has obviously long had in his imagination. It's worth going along. Read full book review >
SING DOWN THE MOON by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: Oct. 19, 1970

If Bright Morning were to show her pleasure in the river's running, the new spring's signal to take the sheep up to the mesa, or if her people were to shed tears on The Long Walk into captivity, the gods would be displeased: with the same dignity and reserve, Mr. O'Dell makes of her story the Navaho epic of dispossession and endurance. She has a foretaste of captivity as a servant in a Spanish town, and in mute hostility resists her mistress' overtures. Escaping with two others, she is joined by Tall Boy, haughty as always, who is injured by a Spanish bullet and will no longer be able to pull a bowstring or throw a lance; will he no longer be acceptable as a husband? Then — developments coming like drops of water — the Long Knives, the American soldiers, tell them they must leave the canyon. They go into the high country to await the soldiers' departure but day after day sees the erosion of their hopes until, their hogans and cornfields destroyed, the very trees stripped of nourishing bark, they try to break away. Overtaken, they are driven eastward, soon to be joined by all the clans, the whole nation of the Navaho. Bosque Redondo is a gray flatlands already occupied by irascible Apaches; a baby entrusted to Bright Morning dies, and many. many others; the women are idle, the men listless. So is Tall Boy, now Bright Morning's husband (what is a dangling arm here?), but she spurs him to return to the canyon. . . which they reach at last, to find a few of her precious sheep remaining. A slender story, a novella really, but telling, though one's commitment is to the cause rather than to the people. Read full book review >
JOURNEY TO JERICHO by Scott O'Dell
Released: Sept. 24, 1969

... or how David carried Grandma May's last jar of watermelon pickles — her one thousand, six hundred and thirty-third — from Big Loop, West Virginia to Jericho, California... and dropped it in the excitement of seeing his father again. That's the size of it, a nostalgic anecdote like a chapter out of Elizabeth Coatsworth — except that the time is now (or almost-1965) and David's journey, begun by mule-drawn wagon and cable-drawn fled, becomes a transcontinental plane trip. And while a taste for Grandma's pickles isn't archaic, the little settlement of Big Loop and its little old coal mine are, and so's the folksy-robot tenor of the text ("David's father wasn't lazy. David's uncle wasn't lazy. Nor was there a lazy bone in the body of his Grandfather Ben"). Accentuating this aspect are Leonard Weisgrad's illustrations, hardly more contemporary than those he once did for The Courage of Sarah Noble. Pleasant enough doings, however, if you're willing to indulge a boy so engrossed in the pickles-he's carrying to his father that he doesn't give the cars he's never seen a second glance. Read full book review >
THE DARK CANDE by Scott O'Dell
Released: Oct. 31, 1968

Is the dark object floating amidships that Nathan first took for the body of older brother Jeremy a chest or a canoe or a coffin? Did oldest brother Caleb murder Jeremy because of resentment at Jeremy's testifying that Caleb was responsible for the loss of the Amy Foster, thereby costing him his captain's papers? Why didn't Caleb say at the inquiry that he had left orders in the ship's log that would, if followed, have saved the ship? Could it be that Nathan's idel Jeremy lied? Could it be that Nathan's idel Jeremy lied? Could it be that Caleb is not the monster he seems? These questions and more make a maze of the early chapters and delay emergence of the crux which is corollary to Caleb's finding of the log clearing him (implicating Jeremy, whom he didn't kill) — that is his identification with Ahab, which appears after sixteen-year-old Nathan has chosen Moby Dick as a birthday present, then focuses on the chest-canoe-coffin which Caleb believes to be Queequeeg's Dark Canoe that later became Ishmael's life buoy. And now that he has replaced the thirty Turk's head knots, he will resume Ahab's hunt for the White Whale. . . until dissuaded by Nathan, echoing Starbuck. At the conclusion carpenter Judd remarks "This book you've been reading. . . I'd like to look at it too"— and as an initiation to Moby Dick this is more viable than it is as a knotted and knobby short novel. Read full book review >
THE BLACK PEARL by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: Sept. 6, 1967

It was a dream so wild that only a very young man and a stupid one could dream it. And yet, as happens sometimes, the dream came true." With pride Ramon wrests the great black pearl from the cave of the Manta Diable, presents it to his father and hears it proclaimed the Pearl of Heaven; with pride he sees his father best the other local traders and give the pearl to the Madonna, our Lady of the Sea. But always there is the doubt implanted by the Indian fisherman: does the pearl belong to the manta, will he reclaim it? And then the fear...Ramon's father's fleet is lost in a storm no worse than many others with all hands save the boastful, greedy Sovillano. To propitiate the manta, Ramon steals the pearl from the madonna but the Sevillano intercepts him as he is returning it to the sea. During their flight—Ramon at knifepoint—the manta appears, and claims the Sevillano with his own death. At last, with love, Ramon replaces the pearl in the Madonna's outstretched hand. "...this new day was the beginning of manhood. It was not the day I became a partner in the House of Salazar nor the day I found the Pearl of Heaven. It was this day." A short novel with the aura of a legend, the intensity of a vision, the headlong force of stripped-down, Keyed-up fiction. Read full book review >
THE KING'S FIFTH by Scott O'Dell
FICTION
Released: Sept. 30, 1966

The theme of Conquistador betraying Indian, betraying his fellows and inevitably betraying himself, has been given no more powerful expression than in Newbery winner Scott O'Dell's second novel for young people. In the prison cell in Vera Cruz where he is being held for withholding the King's share of treasure, the "King's Fifth," young Esteban, the mapmaker, sets down all that has happened in order to discover its meaning; how he joined Mendoza's expedition to the famed Seven Cities of Cibola in order to have the honor of drawing the first maps of unknown regions; his friendship with Zia, the Indian girl guide "of the silver bells and silvery laughter"; the discovery of gold and the change that it brought in him; Mendoza's betrayal of Indian trust to gain the gold; and ultimately, after many hardships, his own abandonment of the gold and all it represents. As Esteban sets down his story, the trial progresses, day by day, until past and present become one. He comes to understand the corrupting power of greed; he understands too that strong bodies and strong wills often conceal weak spirits. The author uses the first person, near-diary form to heighten the immediate moment — the trial —and confer a documentary value on the retrospective narrative. And the ending eschews, in large measure, the contrived solution of many juveniles: Esteban is sentenced to three years' imprisonment by a court that could not have admitted error by exonerating him altogether. Unloose the adjectives for this one: a stunning novel of compelling interest and mounting impact. Read full book review >
THE SEA IS RED by Scott O'Dell
Released: Nov. 19, 1958

In 1861 when the novel begins, Kirk Britt is a trader in Port-au-Prince. At the end of the book several years later he is still a trader at the same stand but with a new bride and an incredible series of adventures to look back upon. A slave revolt forced Kirk and his wife to flee Haiti for New Orleans where misinformation from an evil Spanish slave dealer leads them into the guns of a Federal ship which blows up Kirk's vessel and kills his wife. Although he hates slavery, Britt signs aboard a confederate raider and travels the seven seas sinking Yankee ships, quelling West Indian revolts, spying, intriguing and finally bringing about the ruin of the wicked Spaniard. He re-establishes his business and finds a new wife. Long on action and coincidence, short on credibility, this novel presents a facet of the Civil War that has the merits of being novel if little else. Read full book review >
COUNTRY OF THE SUN by Scott O'Dell
NONFICTION
Released: June 28, 1957

Following an introduction about the early explorers and foreign powers in Southern California and its emergent status as a part of the United States, we are invited to a historical and anecdotal survey of each of the nine southern California counties. Each county lays claim to some kind of color or eccentricity- which is acknowledged today in the form of a fair, a local legend or a street name. The counties are separated by chapters with tourist guides at the end- these are lists of holidays and fairs categorically arranged by county and month. The prospective tourist venturing to the Golden West might do well to glance through. Read full book review >

A first novel by a Californian about California a hundred years ago, the setting the settlement which became San Francisco, then a Spanish trading post, a garrison and a Mission. In opposition and conflict, the call of the land to Marta, daughter of Spain, who has put her life's blood into building a home — the call of the sea to New England Jared, mate of the China Bride, forms the theme of a colorful romance. An authentic picture of the times, and good reading. Read full book review >