Scott O'Dell (1898-1989)

Highly respected and award-winning American author, best known for his historical children's novels. He was born in Los Angeles in 1898. His birth name was Odell Gabriel Scott but he later officially changed it to Scott O'Dell, after seeing it mis-spelt this way and liking it. He worked in Hollywood for a number of years in various jobs such as script-reader, set dresser, camera-man and even once as a body double for Rudolph Valentino! He also served in the army during two world wars.

As a writer, he originally wrote adult novels and articles but after completing the manuscript for his novel Island of the Blue Dolphins, he realized it was really a story for children. The book was highly acclaimed, winning many awards including the Newbery Medal, and was made into a film. It is still perhaps his best known and most popular work. After the success of this book, O'Dell went on to write another 25 books for children/young adults, mostly historical adventures that were often based on real-life events. One of these - Carlota - had a horsy theme and was based on the real character of a girl who was a superb horsewoman and took part in the Battle of San Pasqual in the Mexican War. Not at all a traditional pony story but set in a world where horses were all-important.

Although there is no evidence to say whether he particularly liked horses, Scott O'Dell was an animal lover who disliked hunting and was the director of an animal shelter.

He died in 1989 and his widow, the author Elizabeth Hall, posthumously completed two books he had begun before his death.

There is a Scott O'Dell website and also two books about the author and his work.

Pony Books:

Reprinted a few times in paperback.
SUMMARY: Historical story set in 19th century at the time of the Mexican War and somewhat based on a true story. Young Carlota tries to prove she is as good as her dead brother by becoming a superb rider, racing her black stallion, and herding the cattle as well as any man. But when she rides out with the men to take part in the Battle of San Pasqual, subsequent events make her come to accept what sort of person she really is, rather than what she thinks her father wants her to be.

Collector's Info:
Very easy to find in America. It is also fairly easy to find in the UK and at the moment of writing can be bought on Amazon UK.

Books about the author:

By David L. Russell
(TWAYNE [USA] 1999)
Still in print.
SUMMARY: Part biography, part literary study of the author's adult and children's novels.

By Hal Marcovitz
Still in print.
SUMMARY: Study of the author and his works written for children.

Collector's Info:
Both books are still in print and can be found easily in the USA and the UK.