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The Black Pearl

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Ramon cannot believe what he has just found in an oyster he's brought up from an underwater cave where the Manta Diablo, the monster devilfish, lurks. Ramon is holding a pearl. Not just any pearl, but the most fabulous gem he or anyone else has ever seen. But neither sixteen-year-old Ramon nor his father foresees the trouble that such a pearl can bring. It will be young Ramon who must stop the monster he has unleashed.

112 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1967

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About the author

Scott O'Dell

87 books730 followers
Scott O'Dell (May 23, 1898 – October 16, 1989) was an American children's author who wrote 26 novels for youngsters, along with three adult novels and four nonfiction books. He was most famously the author of the children's novel Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960), which won the 1961 Newbery Medal as well as a number of other awards. Other award winning books by O'Dell include The King's Fifth (1966), Black Star, Bright Dawn (1988), The Black Pearl (1967), and Sing Down the Moon (1970); which were all also Newbery Honor award books. O'Dell wrote primarily historical fiction. Many of his children's novels are about historical California and Mexico.

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5 stars
1,185 (18%)
4 stars
1,986 (31%)
3 stars
2,315 (36%)
2 stars
691 (10%)
1 star
224 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 398 reviews
Profile Image for Debbie W..
762 reviews570 followers
October 13, 2022
Although not as fascinating to me as Island of the Blue Dolphins or Sing Down the Moon, both by Scott O'Dell, it was still an interesting read! I never knew that this story is based on a Mexican legend!

After reading some reviews of this book after posting mine, I always find it disappointing when students are "forced" to read certain books by their teachers and then develop a hatred for some very fine literature. Allow your students to choose independently from a larger selection of quality literature, and you may find that they might actually like stories like this one!
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
July 12, 2009
this is the kind of book you dont even need a bookmark for, because it isnt going to take you more than one sitting to finish. i read it because i need to read 3 newbery or honor books i havent read before for class (why am i so honest??) and i love island of the blue dolphins more than most books, but have never read anything else by scott o'dell. i dont know how kiddies respond to it, but for me it was too brief to really grab me. the descriptions are still great, and its a fine story, but as an adult, i am more demanding. this would be good for kids who dont like reading but have to do a book report. its the shortest book ever!
Profile Image for Dani.
60 reviews1 follower
March 17, 2009
This was probably a better book than I remember, but all I know is that when I got in trouble in 6th grade, my mom grounded me from reading "It" by Stephen King, and made me read this instead... So naturally, I'm bitter...
Profile Image for Andria Potter.
Author 2 books60 followers
August 25, 2023
As I'm stumbling through the Newberry book list, I came across this one. I've read Scott O'Dell before and enjoyed their works. I even gave another book of theirs five stars. Though I liked this one, I'll admit it was slightly boring. Good writing and yet the story just wasn't quite there. A solid 3 ⭐.
Profile Image for Karenc5.
6 reviews
September 16, 2011
WARNIGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG! i might give to much info about this book was
really boring for me , a part of mexico called La Paz where a young boy name Ramon lives.
His father works under the water, his not a submarine, but he finds pearls under the sea.
beautiful pearls which he sells to the people. Ramon whishes that one day he would be just like his father . Ramon's dad could tell if a pearl was good enough to be sell by raising it up to the sun and weighting it. but first he needed to learn how to open the selfs. One day Ramon asked his dad to take him with him, his dad didnt reply him, he said that it could be dangeous , but Ramon wanted to so bad soo he reply him saying "the sea is calm today" , him dad stayed quiet & did not took him with him. One afternoon his dad told him that he was going to teach him how to search for pearls under the water Ramon got really excited. He started to learned how to determine if a pearls was either fragile or was in good conditions to be sell, he learned how to open the selfs ,he was becoming an expert. Until one day he found "The Black Pearl" .
Profile Image for Els.
286 reviews2 followers
January 14, 2019
“And this, kids, is why we aren’t arrogant,” she said with an arrogant shrug


(Also the cover is incredibly whitewashed, just... why.)
Profile Image for Jessica.
24 reviews2 followers
December 4, 2012
When Ramon finds the perfect black pearl, he has no idea what he is about to get into. The black pearl supposedly belongs to the Manta Diablo, a giant manta ray who is apparently the legendary king of the seas. Ramon does not believe that such a creature even exists when he finds the pearl, but when crazy things begin to happen, Ramon begins to believe that maybe the manta diablo does exist after all...

This was a Newberry Honor book, but I personally do not see why it was awarded as such. The writing was good and the story was kind of interesting, but beyond that, there was no draw to this book for me. In fact, I kind of found it boring. Maybe it would be a great story for much younger readers than I, but I did not love this book. The characters were flat, the story line was nothing fantastic and the writing was good, but not superb. These are just my opinions of the book and maybe some people love the book, but I did not and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone over the age of....11.
Profile Image for Femy.
13 reviews
June 9, 2007
i had to re-write a book report for this book in the 8th grade cuz the teacher new i didn't really read it after i first handed in the report. ha. turned out it wasn't that bad
Profile Image for Rachel.
Author 12 books154 followers
September 10, 2023
I'm happy to say that I do still really, truly enjoy O'Dell's storytelling. He's a no-frills sort of writer who lays out his story cleanly and directly, and I always appreciate that. I can definitely see why he was a favorite of mine in my teens! I think he influenced my own writing more than I really realized.

This particular book is not exactly a new favorite for me, but I definitely enjoyed it!
Profile Image for Ciara Houghton.
Author 1 book28 followers
August 27, 2013
The Black Pearl is a well-written coming of age story, even a bit of a page turner. The book grabbed my attention quickly and then held it by steadily tightening the stakes. Yet somehow I finished the book with a shrug. As with O'Dell's Sing Down the Moon, there's no pathos to the prose. You're incredibly close to the protagonist, but you're never really in his head. I did my best to fill in the blanks, especially after tragedy struck (as it always does in his books). Just think of this as an emotional DIY project while enjoying the story itself, which I found quite compelling.
Profile Image for Tiffany.
505 reviews91 followers
July 16, 2022
Truly don’t understand how this is a Newberry Honor book. I just couldn’t get invested in anything about this story at all and so much of it seemed strange and disjointed. I’m not sure that it’s a story that kids would like either. It definitely has elements of adventure, but the climactic scenes fall flat. Also, I don’t read many middle grade books that have a 16 year old (who is “now a man,” according to his family/culture) as a main character. He reads younger, but it seems like a weird age for middle grade. I definitely would’ve DNF’d this one if it wasn’t so short.
Profile Image for Scott Kelly.
246 reviews34 followers
November 15, 2022
This story earns 3 stars due to the setting and the environment created in the story. The story was not very good. There must have been such few children's stories to choose from to give Newbery awards to prior to the 1990s.
I found the way the natives were mentioned as problematic at best. I also found that a theme of the story was Christianity vs superstition and in the end it was found that Christianity is most important.
Profile Image for Jim.
64 reviews19 followers
August 15, 2012
The Black Pearl, by author Scott O'Dell, is a young readers novel about a young man living in a small fishing village near the Gulf of California who becomes obsessed with finding the world's greatest pearl.

Ramon Salazar works for his father at the family's pearl dealing business. He dreams of someday inheriting the business but knows he must first prove himself to his father in order to do so. On one of his father's diving trips a fellow diver, nicknamed the 'Sevillano', begins to run smack at Ramon about what a badass he is. Ramon decides he needs to prove himself to the Sevillano, and his father, that he is capable of finding a better pearl than the Sevillano has ever found. He searches out an old Indian pearl diver by the name of Soto Luzon to teach him better diving techniques. Ramon asks if he may search the old man's lagoon for pearls and says he will share the profits of any pearl he finds. Ramon begins to dive into an underwater cave that appears to have never been searched. One problem: the dark cave is home to a giant freak of a manta ray known as the 'Manta Diablo'. The old Indian warns Ramon that he should not take pearls from the Manta Diablo or he will be cursed and it will hunt him down to the end of his days and never give up until he has completely exacted Biblical type wrath upon him. You get the idea. So, of course, Ramon dives down and comes up with an amazing pearl that gets dubbed 'The Pearl of Heaven'. I think you can see the writing on the cave wall here. Ramon encounters a series of disasters that challenge him in every way, and other parties become interested in getting their hands on the pearl with deadly intent. Lesson learned: if an old wise Indian warns you to not dive into a deep dark cave and steal a giant pearl from a manta ray the size of a small country and who's named the freaking DEVIL MANTA, don't do it!

This was a solid, if unspectacular, book. It was a little light on character development, but had a decent plot. This would make a good book for a book club. It's short, quick to read and could be interpreted in different ways. I found some interesting symbolism and metaphors in the book and I think many people would enjoy this story and come up with their own conlusions about its message.
September 12, 2017
I read this story shortly after reading "The Pearl" by John Steinbeck, and they're clearly based off of the same legend.

Ramón, desperate to prove that he is a man, learns the art of pearl diving in just a few days while his father is gone, hoping to find the great Pearl of Heaven while his father is away on his own pearl diving expedition. Meanwhile, the Indians in this town and many of the other characters make their superstition about the Manta Diablo very plain. Ramón makes his own dive, finds the great pearl, and brings it home to his father. His father, awed by the pearl (however, not seeming very impressed with Ramón for successfully diving and finding it) ultimately gives the pearl to the Madonna, the town's personal representation of Mary. He then goes on an expedition to find more pearls, and does at sea. Ramón steals the pearl intending to throw it back since he now believes that the Manta Diablo wants it back; however, he is kidnaped by his rival who wants to sell it and get rich.
Long story short, the rival and the Manta die, and Ramón takes the pearl back to the Madonna and somehow believes he is now a man.

So, there was a lot more excitement in this story than in Steinbeck's version. It definitely kept me interested! However, there wasn't much character development, and the motives that drove the seemed pretty flimsy. Moral of the story? Can't tell you. I'm not really sure.
Did I like this book? Yeah, it was a fun, quick read. Would I recommend it? Meh.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sofi.
17 reviews
June 25, 2019
I enjoyed this authors books but this one I wasn’t that pleased. I did enjoy the book tho , I just got a little bored. It may be really small but boring, I was hoping to finish the book in about two days so I can begin I a new book I got but did not. When I first opened the book I was excited the front cover looked interesting and made me want to dive to the deep and find the black peal myself . After the first five chapters I got bored put down the book and opened a new book. After a week I wanted to go back and try again , not a mistake at all I enjoyed the last chapters and didn’t regret reading the book. Although if you don’t take your time and read it you will get confused and want to put down the book

One thing to say overall is this book is going to take a lot of concentration to read and put your whole attention into the words so that you can enjoy it as much as you hope to. Take your time in reading this book . When I try to finish it in a certain amount of days I was speeding on my words and I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I hoped too. I prefer this book to anyone it’s super interesting and fun it makes you feel like you’re on a Adventure with all the description.
Profile Image for Sarah.
432 reviews
June 22, 2009
When forced to read this book in 5th grade class with Ms. Seagull (I really have no recollection of how to really spell her name...), I HATED it. I wanted to throw it across the room everytime we had to take it out of our pile of books and read aloud. When forced to read it again in 8th grade, my teacher didn't believe me that I'd already read it, and I had to prove it. I've since read it a third time, and did actually understand why it's considered an honorable book; however, the original damage of forcing a child to read something they truly hate (when they so love reading EVERYTHING else) was already done and I just can't get over it enough to give it the higher rating of more stars that the actual writing deserves.
Profile Image for PATRICK.
292 reviews23 followers
November 27, 2013
The book is short, yes, but it's the perfect length for this. If it had been longer, this book would have been boring and may feel like forced. If it had been shorter, it would seem incomplete.
This is my second Scott O'Dell and you could see the similarities of the settings of this book and Island of the Blue Dolphins and probably his other novels, which I'd read if I got the chance. It's a two and a half hour read and it's cute. The thing I would change about it is the font or the book format itself.
Profile Image for Aidan .
39 reviews
May 17, 2012
It was kinda boring at first.The only reason I kept reading was because I was being paid to but I'm glad I kept reading!
Profile Image for Grace.
558 reviews11 followers
December 1, 2021
Holy smokes! This is not what I expected!! 4.33 stars. Possibly closer to 5, still debating!

PT: RAtW: La Paz (and surrounding areas)
1) SCOTT O'DELL? I don't know how it happened exactly, but somehow while I was reading this I totally forgot Scott O'Dell was the author. Was pleasantly surprised about halfway through when I checked the author's name again! SCOTT, YOU'RE AWESOME, MAN. He has the *range.*
Between Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960) and this, O'Dell is quickly climbing the ranks to becoming one of my favorite authors again. He's got an almost Vernian style, but instead of sci-fi, his primary genre is like,, anthropological historical fiction. INCREDIBLE.

2) Historical fiction, meet fantasy. Or rather, folklore I suppose. STILL THOUGH. The intersection of historical fiction narrative with folklore that's been (re)vitalized into a human story? That's amazing. That's very DISNEY actually. O'Dell really gets genius loci and he weaves it into the text so SEAMLESSLY.

3) For students. The symbols + themes + characters here are not hard to grasp or relate to. Most of them are pretty surface level, with a few slightly subsurface themes. This, incidentally, makes this a particularly noteworthy/valuable read for teachers introducing students to literature structures. Which is SO COOL. It's an all-around fantastic school choice because 1) geography/reading around the world genius loci stuff, 2) intro to literature concepts 3) clear language with the occasional new vocab word 4) compelling narrative/chapter cliffhangers. This is a paragon of children's literature honestly.

1) Over and done. I think this narrative will stick around with me for a while, but it doesn't resonate enough to earn it the five-star rating. I read it, and I'm glad to have done so, but it's not quite up there with the rest of the 5 stars.

1) O'Dell is amazing, wonderful, awesome. I think I've thoroughly established this now, but just in case you missed it? O'DELL IS AMAZING, WONDERFUL, AWESOME.

2) It's hardly fair of me to compare this to the obviously incomparable Island of the Blue Dolphins, but here I go anyway:
a) writing style consistency. Granted, it's been a while since I've read IotBD, but from what I do remember, O'Dell's got a very distinct and characteristic writing style that continues through into this story as well (The Black Pearl publication date: 1967). That's just a delightful trait in children's stories that is sometimes less reliable in young adult/general content reads.
b) geographically based. heck yea!!! HECK YEA! Love that!!! Both TBP and IotBD are HEAVILY tethered to their respective geographic locations (in narrative, character culture, etc.), and that's EXACTLY what I look for in RAtW books! AWESOME! This has revived me for more Reading Around the World books.
a) just,, TBP wasn't quite on the same level as IotBD for me. Blue Dolphins had so much heart, and TBP did have some heart, but just not nearly as much.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for itchy.
1,820 reviews27 followers
June 24, 2021
titular sentence:
p67: But all the time the black pearl was there in his mind.

ocr errors:
p8: Then I could see him and count his eves and teeth while mV mother explained at the very last moment that I had promised to be good so she did not want him to snap my bones after all.

p10: That was the happiest day of my life, that clay four months ago, and yet it was not all happy.

p33: There followed a groan, a rending of timbers˄ and the canoe rose crazily and tipped and I was pitching slowly sidewise into the sea.

p39: "What do you see?" /tried to say.

p69: I had the feeling he had vowed to himself thai he would kill the Manta Diablo, no mater how long it took or at what cost.

p72: I also said a prayer for the Manta Diablo, that creature of beauty and of evil whom only two have seen with their ¡yes, though there are many who say they have and whim everyone in this life at sometime comes to know.

p15: There was a picture in red and green and black ink of Gaspar Ruiz fighting an octopus that had a dozen tentacles.

p71: His back was turned toward me and for a moment I glimpsed the tattoo he was proudest of, the picture across his wide shoulders in red and green and black of him killing the twelve-armed octopus.

Quite moving. I could have sworn that I've read this before. The beginning seemed familiar at least. Maybe it was another lifetime.
Profile Image for Kirk.
Author 28 books108 followers
March 26, 2020
I had to read this in middle school, I believe. At the time I didn’t really get into it. Of course I didn’t get into many books back then. I was extremely picky, and this, among many of the books selected for us in school, was not for me.

But it was in the book sale room at the library, and it looked incredibly short. I’m always down for a single-sitting read, so I grabbed it.

It started a bit dry, but around page 20 the pace picks up and I burned through the rest. It has a nice subtle mythos, and we see local mythology at odds with judeo-christian mythology here. I wasn’t a fan of how that panned out in the very end though.

And I guess that is my only issue with the book. It ended far too quickly, left me wanting more. Not necessarily a bad thing.

I could also see how this book might be less interesting to women as well. It is very reliant on tropes of male narrative. Father-som dynamic, becoming a man. Shit like that. Resonates with me though, so 👍🏽

I’m glad I picked it up and actually read the damned thing.

I don’t think I can give Goodbye Mr Chips another try though. Think I might leave that one back in middle school.
October 13, 2017
The black pearl is about a boy who only wants to discover the great famous pearl in the big blue seas of Baja California. What he doesn't know is that it might be dangerous. He wishes to follow his father's footsteps and become someone who finds these pearls and deal the with others. What i think about this book so far is that it follows a boy who only wants an adventure based on curiosity. I like how he believe's that he wants to prove others wrong among the big and bad Manta Diablo but it comes with its consequences.
Profile Image for Karina Escajeda.
18 reviews
November 26, 2017
I just can't really assign books that have few to zero women and girls in them, it's a false look at a society that doesn't exist for boys, and relegates girls to a footnote or supporting role. I found this to be Hemingwayesque in its omission of women, except for, literally, just the Madonna figure throughout. Gahhh.
Profile Image for Heidi Burkhart.
2,138 reviews33 followers
August 20, 2018
Such a sobering and austere book is a challenge to love. That being said, it is well written and one can draw many points out for examination and conversation.

It would be a good choice for a Grade 8 or 9 literature study.
Profile Image for Chase Tobin.
10 reviews
January 15, 2023
Reading this to my son and he doesn’t want me to stop. Like any O’Dell book, it’s truly an adventure
Profile Image for Jacob.
8 reviews2 followers
June 12, 2023
I really liked this book a lot, but it didn't turn out quite like I was expecting so I'm only giving it a four star review. I thought at first the Madonna Ramon found to be quite beautiful was a real girl around his age, and the idea of a romance blossoming between the main character throughout the book in tandem with the main plot, or at the end would've been a highlight of the book, and honestly if it had had this in the story I would have given this book a five-star review. Alas, I was mistaken and the Madonna in the book was only a statue within the church in the book.
Profile Image for Griffin.
5 reviews1 follower
June 2, 2023
When I was in middle school, I checked this book out so frequently that I eventually stole it from my school library. It sits on my shelf all these years later.

The Black Pearl is a classic. Although a quick read, it's packed with adventure, superstition, revenge, sorrow, and hope. The lengths we'll go to in order to earn our place in the world, in the hearts and minds of our families, and even to square up against our competitors. It's easy to put yourself into the mind of Ramón and feel his desire to prove himself, and then to struggle with the possibility that one of his most significant—albeit foolhardy—accomplishments may have caused irreparable damage.

I recommend this book to both teens and adults.
23 reviews
July 21, 2014
This is a coming of age story set in Mexico's Baja peninsula. It is a story of the sea, treasure, love, faith, work, family ties, and above all greed.
Ramon Salazar, is 16, the son of Blas Salazar, a pearl diver and trader. Ramon has just reached the age of manhood in his culture and his father has accepted him as a partner in his business.
But he has dreams of his own, and with the help of a much older Indian, he learns to dive himself and discovers a magnificent, large black pearl. But he also is told by the old man that the legendary Manta Diablo, a monstrous sea ray, will oppose his taking of the pearl.
His father is impressed by the boy's find, but the other pearl merchants will not buy the pearl at the asked-for price.
Ramon must persevere through decisions as to what to do with the pearl. There are others who want the pearl for reasons good and bad. There are conflicts with greedy antagonists and with nature itself.
And the story ends with an unusual, powerful turn of events that reveal Ramon's character growth and inherent goodness. There is violence in the story, with appropriate reason, but it is not a constant and not graphic.
I found the book to be an interesting character study as it explores the boy's relationship with his family and his faith. One of the most compelling things about it is the story of the boy's growing ability to discern truth from error and develop his own world-view and set of ethics.
This book is a Newberry Honor book.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,813 reviews418 followers
January 17, 2021
A quick, engaging read. I did not care for the pictures at all, however, and I'm not sure that it's Newbery worthy.

It is a view of another culture, actually two cultures, which has been a favorite topic among Newbery committee members, and it has the theme of 'what it means to be a man.' But it's also got a conflict between "Indian superstitions" and Catholic mysticism, neither of which make any sense to me because O'Dell didn't write well enough for me to be able to Suspend Disbelief.

Maybe it's more of boys' book, so-called, too.

And apparently (reading others' reviews) it's based on a legend called El Mechudo. As is Steinbeck's novella The Pearl.

Btw, I'd classify this more for teens than MG, and would add it to suggested reading lists only (maybe) for ages 13 up because it's just too nuanced, subtle, for kids, and too dependent on the kinds of life experience only older children can imagine having. Imo.

Objectively, it's probably not a bad book, but the two-star rating means that *I* did not enjoy it.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 398 reviews

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