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The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse

The Music of Dolphins (1996)

by Karen Hesse

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Mia, a feral child, is raised by a pod of dolphins in the Caribbean. The story follows her as she navigates two worlds.
  Jennifer LeGault | Oct 19, 2016 |
Summary (Spoilers): Mila, a young girl aged around twelve, is found off the coast of Cuba, knowing of nothing but life with dolphins. She does not communicate using any human languages, but instead makes sounds like that of a dolphin-- squealing and whistling. She has been raised by dolphins since the age of four, and does not remember her life with humans at all. She was the lone survivor of a plane crash, although she does not remember it.

The book shows Mila's progress as she works with Doctor Beck to help her adjust to life in the human world. She tells her story in big print, and uses "childish" language at first, but as she progresses, the font becomes smaller, and she writes more sophisticated (the font size is reflected in the book). Mila has a really hard time with the rules of man, and misses her dolphin family and the freedom of living in the sea with them. Mila progresses very far, but struggles deeply with human feelings and the restrictions Dr. Beck has put on her. She eventually regresses back to a simpler state of mind (which is reflected in font), similar to that which she started her writings in. She pleads with Dr. Back and her son, Justin to let her back to ocean. Dr. Beck is scared to allow her to leave humanity again, but seeing her depression and regressing state of mind, Mila is eventually released back to the sea with her dolphin family. The story does provide backstory, showing that Mila finds her dolphin family again, and lives on with them perfectly fine.

This story is probably better suited for older elementary students/middle school. This is a great story to show the struggles of having to adjust to a different life style, and while it's nice to learn new things, family will always feel like home, no matter who/what your family consists of.
  AnnaSavage | Sep 6, 2016 |
It "began as a book about speech development, and evolved into something very different," the author says. The Music of Dolphins is the story of a feral child, a teenage girl found after living with dolphins in the ocean for twelve years. Rescued and taken to a research facility where scientists try to teach her to speak and act human. They also want to learn from her how dolphins communicate. Mila, the dolphin-girl, is confused by her new surroundings, ambiguous human behavior, and why people who profess to care about her keep her imprisoned. Although she likes learning English, and especially music, her greatest desire is to return to the ocean and the dolphins. Alongside her story is that of another girl, Shay, taken from neglectful parents who had kept her locked in a dark room. While Mila is constantly learning and thriving, Shay's rehabilitation goes very poorly. Told through Mila's diary, which begins as awkward sentence fragments, the story grows in complexity as Mila continues to learn and understand more and more. Targeted to a younger audience, the story is still well-enough crafted to be enjoyed by older readers who are interested in such examinations of human and animal nature.

from the Dogear Diary ( )
1 vote jeane | Feb 23, 2015 |
Inside the head of a feral child raised by dolphins. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
The tagline of this book: "Simple is better." This theme runs throughout the writing of The Music of Dolphins. Karen Heese has created a simple, yet extraordinarily powerful and beautiful book that will stick with readers for a long time.

There were many things that stuck out about this book. One of these things is that I liked the writing style and the plot. Karen Heese is a great writer, her writing seems to really touch me. The pacing of the book was slow at some points, but then, shortly after, it quickens.
        I love how she decided to portray Mila through the font of the book (the font got larger when Mila stopped learning, it got smaller as Mila learned more). I thought this was a really creative idea!
        Following our "simple is better" tagline, the plot was simple, yet beautiful. This idea is pretty creative, but it's the actual execution that "seals the deal." I love the idea of a girl raised by dolphins, and there are a multitude of plot twists (some fairly predictable, others not so much).
“I don't know what I am thinking. But I am alone. I am trapped in the net of the room. In the net of humans. I think maybe I am drowning in the net of humans.” My main critique regards the undeveloped characters. I felt the characters weren't as developed as they could have been - especially Mila. They all felt one-denominational, and there really isn't anything particularly special about any of them. Even though they are definitely realistic characters, I couldn't connect or empathize with any of them. The "simple is better" tagline was definitely applied to the characterization aspect of the story - but it definitely had a negative impact.

All in all, this is a beautiful and powerful story that I'd recommend to animal-lovers. This is definitely a beautiful book that readers will not forget. ( )
1 vote ZoeSNicholson | Sep 16, 2013 |
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To Randy. For twenty-five years you have kept me afloat.
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I swim out to them on the murmuring sea.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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From the back cover: "Mila creates headlines around the world when she is rescued from an unpopulated island off the coast of Florida. Now a teenager, she has been raised by dolphins from the age of four. Researchers teach Mila language and music. She learns, too, about rules and expectations, about locked doors and broken promises, disappointment and betrayal. The More Mila finds out what it means to be human, the more deeply she longs for her ocean home. . ."
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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.

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