Prime The Music Of DolphinsAuthor Karen Hesse –

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 Humanthe Locked Doors, The Rules, The Betrayalsthe 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

10 thoughts on “The Music Of Dolphins

  1. says:

    Poor Karen Hesse.

    She might have managed to get this manuscript past an editor at a major publishing house, but she had no idea the scrutiny she was receiving here, at our house this week.

    My 9 and 11-year-old daughters are scarier than any editor that ever held office space in Manhattan, and they agreed to a mutual read-aloud of this one, as long as I sat in between them so they wouldn't kick or punch each other while I read. We're home, like you are, trying to distract our minds with our recently invented “Kids Read Across America” project, and we selected this middle grades read as our entry for Florida, as the back cover reads:

    Mila creates headlines around the world when she is rescued from an unpopulated island off the coast of Florida. . .

    Problem #1: none of the story takes place in Florida.

    So, where does the story take place? Well, in a facility in Boston, but there's no sense of setting, other than the ocean or the facility with the medical staff. So, it won't count for Massachusetts, either.

    Problem #2: the protagonist, Mila, is a feral girl who has lived the last decade of her life with a pod of dolphins and Ms. Hesse was challenged here, to come up with dialogue that would capture the speech of a girl who hasn't spoken with humans since she was four. It worked. . . some of the time.

    My girls loved the dolphin aspect; at one point my 11-year-old expressed how badly she wished she could live among dolphins, rather than humans (hard swallow and silence from mom), both girls loved that Mila emerged from her life in the water covered with barnacles and seaweed-length hair, and they both loved the beginning. . .

    But, when we got to the complicated, weird ending, my middle child looked at me and said, “Knock off another star for the ending. You've got to end strong.” (Problem #3)

    Tough crowd.

    I don't know what has made my children such savage editors. . .


  2. says:

    Simply put, this is one of the greatest books I have ever read. Karen Hesse's ingenious interpretations of life lived like an animal gave me constant, visible chills all over my body. The writing is perfect, and I won't spoil the story by saying too much in this review; I'll just say this is an awe-inspiring masterpiece of literature, and in a year of incredible Newbery contenders (including Jerry Spinelli's Crash and E.L. Konigsburg's The View From Saturday), I would have awarded the 1997 Newbery Medal to The Music of Dolphins.

  3. says:

    I picked this book up when I was in fourth grade. It was then that I decided I wanted to become an author myself.

    Yes, a little girl wouldn't be able to survive out at sea for so long. But isn't that the beauty of fiction? Do readers of vampire novels stop and think "How come their skin isn't rotting away, if they're dead?" No, of course they don't. So, you really shouldn't spoil a good story with rational thoughts.

    Anyway, back to the book. It's one of my favorite stories from when I was younger. It must have touched me--even as a little girl--to have stuck with me for so long. It provoked many questions, and really got me thinking.

    Music of Dolphins played out nicely. If it were a song it would be soft and beautiful with a sharp and thrilling chorus. A luring beginning and a refreshing conclusion. It's a story that should be shared.

  4. says:

    "In the sea we go we where we wish. We swim and play together in the big sea. Families of dolphin come together, from the cold sea, from the warm sea, from the deep sea and the cays. We play and sleep and eat together".

    The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse

    My review of this book. What to say? Loved it, loved it. loved it. It is beautiful, mystical, playful and lovely..the way I imagine being kissed by a Dolphin must feel.

    So this book is an ode to Dolphins and to the sea. If you are reading this and you, like myself, feel calmed and soothed by the great roaring of the ocean waves..and feel soothed by dolphins and all the magnificent and beautiful fish who live in the depths of the ocean..this is the book for you.

    Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Mila. Tragically, when traveling with family, her plane went down. T he family were presumed dead.

    But now, all these years later, The girl, Mila, has been found. Airplanes overhead spotted a mysterious girl at the edge of the sea. They scooped her up and brought her to safety.

    For Mila however, she does not necessarily WANT to be brought to safety. She has survived all these years and she has done that with the help of her family..her Dolphin family.

    They saved Mila all those years ago and integrated her into their life. She is of the sea now. Together she and her dolphin family live life in playful solidarity where Mila, though she has arms and legs, is accepted as one of them by her dolphin family .

    She sings the sea music of the dolphins. She glides on the back and shoulders of her mama and Auntie as they glide amongst the waves and tropical fish across the waters. She has her own is the language of dolphins.

    Her new family means well..but they are under strict orders by the Government. Everyone is curious to see this Dolphin Girl. And Mila does acclimate to an extent. She learns English and she learns human music. She learns who she is. But still her heart and soul long for her real family who are far away flying through the sea spray and turquoise waves of the ocean.

    This book is so beautiful. It is short..a little under 200 pages. Someone here on GR described it as "one of the best book they had ever read". I wanted to read it for that reason. So glad I did. What a beautiful and poetic ode to our wonderful ocean friends. And without spoilers..I can say I closed the book with a smile on my face.

    So do think about reading it. It is also so educational. Mila tells of the Dolphin's ways of living and you sort of fall into listening to her. Also, I must say I would not mind being a Dolphin. Along with other sea friends like seals and otters they are amazing and wonderful beings.

    This one gets five stars easily. Fall into the world of the Dolphin. Read this book.

  5. says:

    I read this book when I was eight years old, and I loved it to pieces. I was old enough then to grasp the significance of how, when Mila (a girl washed away at the age of four and raised by a pod of dolphins) was trying to speak English and interact with the humans who "rescued" her, the font was enormous and the grammar choppy, and as she learned more and more, the font grew smaller and narrower. When all she knew was dolphins, Mila's world was stunningly open and beautiful, and when she learned about humans, about the ways they're supposed to act and speak and behave, she became as small and narrow as the font she used, and she hated it.


  6. says:

    "I swim out to them on the murmuring sea. As I reach them, their circle opens to let me in, then re-forms. The dolphins rise and blow, floating, one eye open, the other shut in half sleep."

    They discovered her during a routine surveillance flight. At first, they thought she was a mermaid with hair down to her feet and a body blanketed in seaweed. But as the flight crew on the Coast Guard Jay Hawk flew closer, they realized that what they spotted was not a mermaid, but a young girl. The crew named her Mila meaning “miracle” for how else can one explain how a young girl could survive for so many years with only dolphins for mentors and companions? As researchers teach Mila language and music, she slowly begins to understand what it means to be human and the more she understands, the more she longs to return to her beloved sea and the security of her dolphin family.

    Hesse gives us a beautifully captivating story that is filled with love, loss, and a longing for home. Mila narrates her journey from the sea to captivity and Hesse adeptly allows young readers to experience Mila’s learning curve and metamorphosis from “dolphin girl” to human through the use of font size. A large font size is used initially to show Mila’s unfamiliarity with newly introduced customs and language. As her proficiency and comfort increases, the font size decreases. When Mila slowly begins to feel trapped within her human confines and her hope of being returned to the sea fades, the font begins to increase and the reader immediately understands that she is reverting to her former self. This visual successfully creates a sense of suspense and anxiety for the reader. By simply altering font sizes, the reader knows that the situation is turning dire for our young heroine and allows Hesse to avoid spelling it out for them. It’s a clever use of fonts and highly effective.

    Although Mila is enjoying her time on land and all the new discoveries she encounters on a daily basis, nothing ever quite matches the pull she feels for home. Just as the cliff swallows make their 6,000-mile flight every March to San Juan Capistrano, California or you hear of a family pet traveling months and hundreds of miles to find its way back to its owner, nothing quite matches the lure of home. Like another literary heroine who found herself picked up and then dropped into a foreign land, Mila reminds us that there really is no place like home.

  7. says:

    This is by far the worst work of fiction I have ever read. Feral children are almost impossible to rehabilitate. And it's more than a stretch to ask readers to suspend their disbelief with regard to a girl who's spent most of her life in saltwater. Her skin would have become so waterlogged that it would have developed open soars and rotted off.
    This book is nothing more than a very very cheap knock-off of Flowers for Algernon.

  8. says:

    This one has been on my reading list for a while — after reading Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, I wanted to read more things by her. This basically follows Mila as she is rescued from the sea and acclimated to the human world after living with and being raised by dolphins for four years. I appreciated the audiobook version because it’s told in first person and Michele McHall beautifully captures the voice and essence of a girl who is just learning how to speak and use words. It’s a lovely experience that I would definitely recommend if you can get the audio version at some point.

    The Music of Dolphins provides an interesting snapshot into what it would be like for a girl to go from living in the sea to living in the human world, with all that comes with it. What would it be like for a person to live in a building after spending her life living outside, in the ocean, and on the islands? What would it be like to learn human speech after learning how to communicate with dolphins? How would communications with humans go? All of these questions are explored through Mila’s interactions with her world and through her re-acclimatization process.

    This is a slow-paced story that is mostly character driven, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s incredibly well-written and there are subtle changes in Mila from chapter to chapter as time passes and she becomes more used to living in the human world, for better or worse. Hesse is thorough in her treatment of this subject, and I like how she includes Mila’s confusion about why the government has so much say in her life and how Mila feels lonely, because while she’s given caregivers, she doesn’t really have a family and feels a lot of loneliness over that. This is a great book for kids to be able to think about what is normal to them that might be strange to others, and what is strange to them that might be normal to others.

    The writing alone is enough to recommend this book, but it tells an enchanting story of what we’ve decided is meant by being human, and how that might look to others not used to it. I definitely recommend reading this if you haven’t already. It’s wonderful.

    Also posted on Purple People Readers.

  9. says:

    I loved this book when I was about 11. I still love it. Especially since I know more about feral children. What happens to Mila also reminds me of what happens to dolphins in captivity. The cover is really pretty, but now it bothers me that the depiction of Mila on it is whitewashed. She's supposed to be half Cuban and even calls her skin brown. This edition is closer to how she should be represented.

    (view spoiler)

  10. says:

    I read this book in junior high school and it was amazing; going back and reading it again sort of changed my opinion on it slightly but nonetheless it's a great book for middle-grade readers.