The music of dolphins

Karen Hesse

Book - 1996

Using sophisticated computer technology, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been raised by dolphins, records her thoughts about her reintroduction to the human world.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Scholastic Press c1996.
Language
English
Physical Description
181 p.
ISBN
9780590897983
0590897985
Main Author
Karen Hesse (-)
Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

"As moving as a sonnet, as eloquently structured as a bell curve," said PW in a starred review of this first-person novel by the Newbery Medalist about a girl who is raised by dolphins and studied by scientists. Ages 9-12. (Feb.)

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

As moving as a sonnet, as eloquently structured as a bell curve, this book poignantly explores the most profound of themes?what it means to be human. The narrator, Mila, is discovered by the Coast Guard on a deserted island, where she has been living with dolphins. The so-called feral child becomes the subject of government study?pried at and poked, taught language and music. Her amazing progress contrasts with that of another "wild child," Shay, who is being studied by the same team of experts. While Shay remains locked in silence, Mila's hands can fly over the computer keyboard or the holes of a recorder, and she even tries to explain dolphin language to the eager doctors who become her family. But Mila feels the call of the wild growing stronger and doubts about the sparkling lures of civilization growing louder. Finally the longing for her island consumes her entirely. It's a difficult plot to pull off, but Hesse (Letters from Rifka; Phoenix Rising) succeeds. While she insists on simplicity in framing the story, she also employs a high-wire writing technique, having Mila tell the story first in halting, little words (in big type), then in more complex, fluid words (in small type), so that the language and themes become increasingly sophisticated. All together, a frequently dazzling novel. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 6-9-After a plane crash off the coast of Cuba, a four-year-old survives, nurtured by dolphins. At adolescence, the girl is "rescued" by the Coast Guard and turned over to a scientist who has a government grant to study the part language acquisition plays in socialization. Mila, the otherworldly "dolphin girl," is enthusiastic to please, learning to speak words and write her thoughts on a computer, but gradually she understands that she is a prisoner "in the net of humans." She begins to lose ground, regressing physically, begging to be returned to the sea. Hesse's skill is in making readers believe in this wise, intuitive feral child. Mila's longing for the sea and her dolphin family is so achingly palpable that her return is equally believable. Her story is told in her own perfectly sustained voice: the clear and simple, but profound and poetic language of a "foreigner" with a keen mind and resonant spirit but limited vocabulary. Readers, engrossed, will follow the intriguing device of changing typeface that indicates Mila's evolution-flowing script, to chunky bold, to standard size, and back-reflecting changes within her character. Deceptively easy in format, this is a complex and demanding book. Evoking a Selkie myth, it is a reminder that the link between humankind and nature is mysterious and ignored at our peril. This powerful exploration of how we become human and how the soul endures is a song of beauty and sorrow, haunting and unforgettable.-Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Greenwich, CT

Review by Publisher Summary 1

After rescuing an adolescent girl from the sea, researchers learn she has been raised by dolphins and attempt to rehabilitate her to the human world

Review by Publisher Summary 2

After falling from a refugee craft at the age of four, Mila spends eight years as a wild child of the sea between Cuba and Florida, and when she is rescued, she must learn to communicate once again with humans. Reprint.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

They call her Mila, from the Spanish word for "miracle." Lost after a plane crash when she was small, Mila has been cared for ever since by dolphins. When she is eventually spotted on an unpopulated island off Cuba, she is an adolescent and seems hardly human to her rescuers. Mila is taken to a child study center in Boston. Eager to please, she makes rapid progress in language and social skills. With her recorder, Mila finds she can even make music like the dolphin songs she yearningly remembers. But the more Mila discovers about what it means to be human--the locked doors, the rules, the betrayals--the more she longs for her watery home and gentle dolphin family. In an emotionally wracking conclusion, she returns to the world where her ears never want for song. Where, although she cannot stand on her tail or jump the waves, she is part of the music of dolphins.