From the Publisher
"Mila's rich inner voice makes her a lovely, lyrical character." - Voice of Youth Advocates
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"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.)
The ALAN Review - Hazel K. Davis
A toddler lost in the ocean after a plane crash is adopted by a family of dolphins and survives for thirteen years. Despite this fantastic premise, Hesse manages to capture the reader by providing the child's own version of her rescue/capture, a newspaper account of the rescue, and Mila's (from the Spanish word for miracle) diary typed into the computer at the government research center where she is taken. Large type, spacing, and length of entries (chapters) reflect Mila's development as she quickly acquires human language and behavior. Although she tries to adjust to the human world as she is allowed to see it, she longs for her dolphin family and her ocean world. Not easily put down, this novel helps the reader to reflect on what it means to be a human being.
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
The stories of children raised by animals are often heartbreaking, but the animals are usually apes, or bears, or wolves. Mia has been raised since the age of four by a pod of dolphins, and when humans discover her, she has no memory of any other family. Her story is beautifully written in three voices from the same source. Mia's thoughts when she writes as a dolphin are printed in italics, and she is articulate and fluent. As she learns English, the print is large and the language childish. Gradually she adjusts to life on land with its rules and restrictions. The print changes to normal type size as her language ability changes. The scientists who have been studying her begin to demand behavior she can't reconcile with her dolphin ways. She begs to be set free to live her real life-in the sea, with her dolphin family.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
This is a truly enchanting and provocative story of a human girl raised by dolphins from the age of 4. When the scientists begin studying her, she amazes them with her unique abilities. She plays music, she learns speech and complex ideas, but when they restrict her movements, she cannot reconcile that with the dolphins' free ways. While still in her primitive state, Mila's responses are shown in very large type; as her language acquisition improves, the typeface reflects her sophistication. But Mila knows she will always be an object for study and takes the only path that will allow her to be happy.
VOYA - Mary Arnold
Following her rescue by the Coast Guard, researchers discover that Mila has been raised by dolphins, and attempt to rehabilitate her to the human world. But in their zeal to study and learn from her, they imprison and threaten to destroy the special connection to another world that makes her unique. A profound study of being human and the ways in which communication unites and separates living beings, Hesse's prose poem combines an intriguing format and typeface that reflects Mila's development and growing sociability, as it contrasts with the isolation and fear of another feral child, Shay. With an almost dreamlike style, Mila ponders the differences between her island home and dolphin family and the house she shares with her doctors. Even while she rapidly grasps the use of computers and becomes enthralled with making music, Mila finds herself drawn back to the sea and a more elemental way of life than civilization can offer. Mila's rich inner voice makes her a lovely, lyrical character. The idea of a "wild child" with an adolescent's questions and yearnings is appealing; the seeming simplicity of the story line belies the complex technique. But with the in medias res opening, the preponderance of interior monologue and sophisticated styles, this will probably not be a first choice for reluctant readers. VOYA Codes: 5Q 3P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Will appeal with pushing, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
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
Her mind and spirit shaped by the dolphins who raised her, a feral child views herself and her human captors from a decidedly unusual angle in this poignant story from the author of A Time of Angels (1995).
The rescuers who find her on a key off the coast of Cuba dub her MilaSpanish for "miracle"for although she weighs barely 100 pounds and bears sucker and barnacle scars, she is healthy and alert, human in form but with strange gestures, sounds, and behavior she learned from the dolphins with whom she has lived for at least 10 years. Taken to a research facility, Mila launches into her new life with enthusiasm, spurred by the hope that she will soon be returned to her marine family. She excels at her studies and displays a genius for music. As someone whose inner resilience has allowed her to develop a dual nature, Mila is utterly convincing; in a highly individual voice, she describes her old and new livese.g., "the sea is a big home where all the time is swimming and all the time is singing and all the time is touching in the big wet." Changes in type size and style signal Mila's inner shifts as she turns toward humanity, then away, finding in the dolphins a wiser, more comfortable society. A probing look at what makes us human, with an unforgettable protagonist.