["Island of the Blue Dolphins"] is a romance only in the older sense of the word. It has no hero, no frills, none of the usual feminine props, but I think that thoughtful readers will be willing to forego these for the sake of an unusual experience.The setting is a remote California island where, from 1835 to 1853 an Indian woman, known to history as the Lost Woman of San Nicolas lived alone. Mr. O'Dell has used the few facts known about her as the basis for a haunting story of a young girl who is accidentally left behind when tragedy had decimated the tribe. Karana, bereft of her people, of weapons, even of cooking pots—her young brother killed by wild dogs—not only manages to exist but to wring a measure of comfort, beauty, even joy in her solitude. Mr. O'Dell never sentimentalizes her thoughts, nor ascribes to this primitive girl too much poetic feeling. His style, spare, unemotional but evocative, is beautifully fitted to his subject. (p. 40)
Ellen Lewis Buell, in a review of "Island of the Blue Dolphins," in The New York Times Book Review, March 22, 1960, pp. 40-1.