The Music of Dolphins
Karen Hesse (Juvenile Fiction)
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.
* Book cover image attributed to www.goodreads.com
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