The Music of Dolphins

The Music of Dolphins

4.5 49
by Karen Hesse

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A girl raised by dolphins must choose between two worlds in this critically acclaimed novel about what it means to be a human being.


A girl raised by dolphins must choose between two worlds in this critically acclaimed novel about what it means to be a human being.

Editorial Reviews

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
Kirkus Reviews
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 Mila—Spanish 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 lives—e.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.

Product Details

Perfection Learning Prebound
Publication date:
Apple Signature Edition Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Best known for her book written in verse Out of the Dust, which won a Newbery Medal in 1997, Karen Hesse is an acclaimed author of children’s literature. Out of the Dust is a heartrending story about a girl trying to cope during the Dust Bowl. Many of her most notable books are steeped in history, including Witness, Stowaway, and Letters from Rifka.

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The Music of Dolphins 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Aislind More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book a lot. I read this in fifth grade, my whole grade did. It was about a girl age 11-17 named Mila. She was raised by dolphins and then rescued by a few men in a plane flying overhead. She and her family were in a plane crash and she was the only one to survive. After being rescued she is taken to a hospital. (Sort of like a mental hospital, where she could live and learn to be more human). She lives with Doctor Beck and her son along with another girl like herself named Shay. She makes friends with Justin the Doctors son and Shay as well. She starts to learn and speak, but as the book goes on she gets less progressive, and it starts to worry doctor Beck. This book is a lot like the book Dolphin Song, but Karrana (The main character) strives for her life in the book while Mila is only learning to be more human. I definitely recommend this to anyone that can read, although it'd be better for grade levels 5-* because you want to be able to comprehend it. Hope I helped!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My 9yr. old got this book for Christmas. She is enamored with dolphins and says this is was a fantastic book. It kept her interest throughout.
cinammonbunny More than 1 year ago
i'm not done reading this yet. i took it out of my teacher's library in language arts and started to read it. it looked really good... but then soon i started to get reaalllyyy BORED OUTTA MY MIND !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! but i'm going to keep reading it................
Abagail_Ree More than 1 year ago
I read this book in third grade, and now I am a freshman in high school. Although I could comprehend very little at the time, I loved this book a lot. It became my favorite book. I love this book. However, I have not read it since. I would recommend it to anyone. Mila is the picture of innocence, not knowing of the human world. It's interesting I thought to watch her progress slowly and then slowly become less and less productive and so on. Fantastic book. Read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Our class is reading The Music of Dolphins. Were reading it in reading class. You should read this book, it's very interesting because a girl who was living at sea ever since four is interesting. She lived with the dolphins. And speaks dolphin seriously what's up with that. Then a man thought she was a mermaid since she was so far from sea and the man took her back they said she was a ordinary girl. The government named her Mila. Mila was the government property. She kept acting like a dolphin so she had to be taught like a little girl. Will Mila find her family? Will she find her way back home?
MissT4thGradeClass More than 1 year ago
DO NOT READ! This book Music of the Dolphins is weird. A girl named Mila is raised by dolphins! First of all who is raised by dolphins? Second of all She is between 11 and 15 and trying to learn ENLISH! If you want to waste your time reading this NO ONES STOPING YOU. Again this book is the weirdest book in the whole universe! The Music of Dolphins I read a book call The Music of Dolphins. In this book a girl name Mila use to live with dolphins. A man come and take her to the hospital. They try to teach are English and she meets a girl name Shay. Mila talks about the sea and the dolphins, the sharks and the killer whales. She wants to learn more English so she can go back home to the sea. Will Mila go back to the sea or will she live like a human? If you want to know you have to read this book to find out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Splash went the dolphin¿s tail as I dived into this book! The book The Music of Dolphins is an amazing story about a girl named Mila. When she was young, she and her mom and brother were flying on an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean when the plane they were flying in crashed on an island off the coast of Florida. Mila was the only one on the whole plane that survived! Mila was raised by dolphins and she only knew the things that the dolphins knew. For example, she could hold her breath really long, but she had no idea what a fork was. Boy, was she in for a big surprise! Mila was discovered and captured by humans. They brought her to a rehabilitation center where she would learn things about being a girl.
In the rehab center, she makes a bunch of buddies. Some of them are Shay, Doctor Beck, Sandy, and Justin. Shay and Mila are sort of alike. They were both wild children, except Shay was found in the mountains. Mila was a role model to Shay. She was very shy and would only talk to Mila. Doctor Beck and Sandy, her assistant, are Mila and Shay¿s doctors. Sandy is a not really a doctor she is more like an assistant. Mila becomes close with Sandy. Doctor Beck is a real doctor. She is the one who shows Mila how to live like a human. Doctor Beck can be a little rough, but most of the time she is nice. Justin is Doctor Beck¿s son. He and Mila become really close. They go out for walks and he helps Sandy take care of Mila, too. Overall, she has plenty of people who love her, even if they aren¿t her family.
This book is like The Island of Blue Dolphins because like Mila, Karana has to learn new things. But, in her case, she has to learn them to survive. Mila has to learn new things so she can become more human.
Karen Hesse has written many stories. She wrote Letters from Rafika which is about a girl from Russia. Her family is fleeing to America during the Holocaust. She goes through many hard times as her trip moves on. This book is also really good. Karen grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. When she was little she wanted to be many things. I am so glad that she decided to be an author or we wouldn¿t have all of these great books by her. As you can plainly see, this story by Karen Hesse is astounding.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i loved this book it really was a mystery type of book, it got me interested when i looked on the cover. i really enjoyed reading it i read it so many times, iwas dissapointed when i was done reading it, i never wanted the book to end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was just amazing. I kept reading it and i didn't want to stop. It is incridebale that the girl was able to survive from dolphin milk. i can't believe people found and rescued her. It is outstanding!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was an amazing book it was exiting and kept me going. It was a page turner it made want to keep reading and not stop
Guest More than 1 year ago
At first, I was thinking ' Here we go again...' but once I read the first page, I was excited! This book is told from the eyes of an inocent young girl who's been raised by dolphins here whole life after being lost at sea. It takes a stunning yet true look into human nature and its pros and cons. In Mila's eyes, you have the good things (music and books) and the bad things (seperation and anger). She relises that if she wants to be human, she has to follow the rules. An amazing book that, although very short, is incredibly sweet and gives out a huge message. I highly recommend it to anyone, regardless of what you like.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a story I had to read for summer reading. Once I started I couldn't stop! It had a lot of cool moments in it and I thought it was very original! Must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Music of Dolphins is a great book. I read it in second grade and four years later, it's still one of my favorite books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is an amazing look at our society and life from the eyes of someone innocent. it's really quite deep and I would recomend it to everyone. Especially adults. It's not written with witty or entertaining prose and it takes very little time to read and comprehend, but the message here is so outstanding that it should be read by everyone in the modern world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow, The book that is sad and happy and the most interesting book I ever read. A girl thats a dolphin and all her adventures!! Please read it. I know for sure that you'll love it!!!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was around 10, and i still enjoy it now 4 years later!! it makes me really wish that Karen had made a sequal to this book so I could know what happened to Mila after Justin promised to give her back to the sea. This book touched my heart and i hope it has the same effect on young readers today!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story is about a girl who was discovered living with dolphins since she was four! Researchers name her Mila and teach her to speak and play music. Mila misses the openness of dolphin life, but she also likes the world she¿s in now. Will Mila go back to the sea with her dolphin family or stay here with her human friends? This book was so good. I liked how the author Karen Hesse used large print to show how she thought and as she learned more the writing became smaller. I think it helps you to understand what Mila goes through. I really liked this book it was sad and it made you happy at the same time. I think it¿s a must read for anyone who feels trapped and can¿t find a way out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was easy to read.It was touching that at the end Justin would give her to the sea. I would recommend it to 9 year olds like myself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book and on my top 10 of all time list. In a world full of war and dogmatism we need spiritual inspiration like this. It reminds me of Flowers for Algernon and Ring of Endless Light
Guest More than 1 year ago
You can really understand what the character goes through with the enlarged text. Karen Hesse does a wonderful job with showing us the character's emotions. She shows us that Mila is like a 4-year-old. She knows nothing about the world around her and doesn't know how to react with dignity, so she does whatever comes naturally. Karen Hesse has written a wonderful book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was ok. I only thought it was interesting when Mila was living with the dolphins in the beginning. Other than that... it was ok recommended for children around 9-11. I read it around october 2003 and was still 12
Guest More than 1 year ago
it was a pretty good book it was good story and it was enteresting i reccomend this book for like 10 and up and people who love to read.