Title: The Music of Dolphins
Author: Karen Hesse
Genre: Realistic Middle-Grade Fiction
Number of Pages: 196
I’ve had a long-standing fascination with feral children, so even though I suspected this book was way too young for me I couldn’t resist checking it out. The Music of Dolphins begins with a naked wild girl being found near a beach, swimming with a group of dolphins. The girl is named ‘Mila’ and reintroduced to society, and several scientists move her into a home where they educate her and care for her as part of a research project.
Mila was the survivor of a plane crash that killed her mother when she was very little, so she has a basic understanding of the English language and despite her desire to return to her dolphin family she loves to learn. She begins to bond with her adult guardians but the more she learns about being human, the more she realizes she is caught between two worlds and will ultimately be accepted by neither.
Even though her narration might prove to be a little too cloyingly sweet for some, I fell in love with Mila’s character from the very beginning. I think Karen Hesse did an excellent job conveying how Mila’s vocabulary and understanding of the ‘normal’ world develops over time. Most of the characters are minimally developed and are primarily defined by the roles they play in Mila’s life, but I think that worked for this particular book.
The Music of Dolphins also turned out to not be too juvenile for this particular 25-year-old. Even though the broader themes weren’t explored in great detail (partially because of the focus on Mila’s individual experiences,) I still found them interesting. It’s adults’ responsibility to rescue a child who’s living out in the wild, but would a boy raised by wolves be better off not being hauled into the midst of his ‘own people’ where he’ll forever be seen as an outsider and a freak? I wish this story had a happier ending, and I wanted throughout to give Mila a hug and make everything turn out okay for her. I recommend this book to readers of just about every age, because I think all kinds of people can appreciate the story it has to tell.
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