The Music of Dolphins

by Karen Hesse

Paperback, 1998



Local notes

PB Hes




Scholastic Paperbacks (1998), Edition: Reprint, 192 pages


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.


Nebraska Golden Sower Award (Nominee — 2000)
Young Hoosier Book Award (Nominee — Middle Grade — 1999)
Utah Beehive Book Award (Nominee — Children's Fiction — 1999)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

192 p.; 5.5 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member brittneydufrene
I have actually read this book before. I love Karen Hesse and all of her stories! The story of Mila, a feral child raised by dolphins and found by humans. Told in her point of view, the story begins in a nervous kind of way, showing you that she is unfamiliar with her surroundings. But she soon
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progresses to a more confident and becomes comfortable with human language. But, towards the end of the story, she starts to realize how much she misses her dolphin family and wants to go back. I recommend this book to people who like adventure and dolphins. You can get through the first couple of chapters very quickly.
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LibraryThing member ZoeSNicholson
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member jrlandry1410
A fantastic book about a young girl, who in the book is mostly referred to as "Mila", who was stranded on an island at the age of 4, the only survivor of a plane crash. She was raised by dolphins and was found by a helicopter as a young teen. She was brought to a team of doctors and caregivers who
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are determined to not only teach her human ways, but to extract the secrets she held of dolphin ways. The story is told at first through Mila's inner thoughts, expressed in english. Then as Mila begins to learn English herself we are told her story through her own words in simple english, very simple at first and then a little more complex. After she starts to miss her dolphin way of life, it reverts back to simple, and eventually to inner thoughts when she rejoins her dolphin family. This book is about feral children, where that would fit into a lesson, I do not know. It does have some good insight into human nature, and the ways of both humans and dolphins. I feel like this book could spark some good discussions in class and it would be good for 5th through 8th graders.
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LibraryThing member MrsBond
A pilot spots a girl on an uninhabited island and rescues her. Her caretakers soon learn that Mila has been living in the ocean with the dolphins. She wants to please her new family but desperately misses her dolphin family.
LibraryThing member nmhale
While this was a book with an interesting concept, it left me cold. I was so saddened by Mila and her situation. The grief she learns far outweighs the good. Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.

The story is about a young girl, around the age thirteen but no one is sure, is found living on an
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uninhabited island, with dolphins as her family. She is taken from her home, named Mila, and placed in a laboratory, where Dr. Beck and Sandy try to teach her the ways of humanity. Of course, they also want to learn from her the ways of dolphins. While Mila shows remarkable progress in language and music, she also learns of prejudice and injustice and broken friendships.

I was unutterably sad after finishing this tale. I believe in the positive hope in all humanity, that despite our flaws and great disasters, we can be better, we can be good. This book, though, is about humanity's inability to save a little girl. Although some good comes to Mila, it's not enough to balance the bad. The story has a moral lesson, it teaches what it is like to be different, the negative effects that society's prescribed roles can have on people, but the lack of redemption at the end of the novel ends everything on a heart breaking note.
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LibraryThing member Maggie_Rum
This was a favorite book growing up. The development of the young girl is amazing and mind-boggling, and the story is heart-wrenching. This is lovely.
LibraryThing member Tien.Nguyen
“The Music of Dolphins” by Karen Hesse is about a young girl, Mila. Mila was raised by dolphins and grown up with dolphins as her family. She was brought to a place where Dr. Beck, Sandy, and Dr. Troy try to teach her how to act and do as the way of human beings. Mila makes progress in speaking
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language and making music. She wants to make other people be happy and desire to go home with her dolphin family. This book helps me, as educators, understand about speech development, friendships, and the control of society.
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LibraryThing member nkertz
after being raised by dolphins for most of her life, this young girls in "rescued" from the wild and returns to the human world. she has to be rehabilitated to the world that she lost but she doesnt want to let go of her dolphin world. she finds love in the new world but still longs for the old.
LibraryThing member alyssabuzbee
This was a beautiful, inspiring story about a girl who was raised by dolphins. Having been discover ed living among the dolphins, she is brought back t o civilization so that she can teach people the language of the dolphins. However, the only thing she longs for is to live the way she had before.
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This book was interesting to me because it documents the stages of literacy. The story is told from the girl's point of view, and as the girl gets more fluent in reading and writing, we see her writing change to better convey her thoughts and feelings.
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LibraryThing member bsalomon
Mila is found on an island, where she has lived with dolphins for year. She is taken away from the water and given to Dr. Beck and Sandy. They take care of Mila and teach her how to talk and play a recorder. At first Mila likes learning new things and shows much progress. Mila likes showing
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progress because she likes to make Dr. Beck happy and hear her say good job. When Mila finds herself locked in her room, she becomes very angry and her view of humans becomes different. In the end, Mila does not want to be human; she only wants to return to the sea. This is a great story for children to read because it is interesting and gives a different perspective to being a human.
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LibraryThing member paulaanweiler
Society tries to change a feral girl that had spent the majority of her life with dolphins. She quickly realizes that good intentions are not the motive.
LibraryThing member lekenned
This was a story about a feral girl who grew up living with dolphins. She is found and brought back to be studied and to be taught how to live like other humans. She struggles with the complex human social ways and just wants to go back to the sea where things are simple.
LibraryThing member PaigeCostella
Mila is raised by dolphins from the time she was four years old when she was involved in a plane crash with her mother who had died. Mila was raised by dolphins for 13 years. She is then sent to live with doctors so they can teach her how to act like a human. Mila is very open to the process of
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learning to be human until she realizes humans have many rules and regulations to follow by. Unlike a dolphin who doesn't live by any rules and do whatever they please. Mila starts to act out when she finds out she is being locked in her room. Mila does not want to learn or act as humans do anymore and wants to go back home to her dolphin family. This can be read in an english class to learn about language and the different dialect of people.
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LibraryThing member khand
This book is about a little girl who is raised by dolphins.
LibraryThing member tinpat8
it was pretty good, it about a girl that lives in a ocean with the dolphins, and she doesnt know how to speak but the doctors and people taught her all of that stuff. =]
LibraryThing member tim_haddad
MIla, a girl who lived with dolphins, finds herself "captured" and studued by humanns who wish to "help" her acclimate to the human world. The pull of her dolphin family proves too strong. Novel provides an opportunity for introspection of human life and relationships.
LibraryThing member sspigott
This is a beautiful book!
LibraryThing member Annod
It was ok, not great.
LibraryThing member MelAKnee
Mila is a curious chlld who was raised by dolphins on an island after being seperated from her mother and lost at sea during a plane crash. She learns to live with the dolphins and to speak their language. She is found by the Coast Guard and after years of treatment and care by Dr. Beck, Mila
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realizes that she does not like being human and misses the world she knew with the dolphins.
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LibraryThing member Jennifer LeGault
Mia, a feral child, is raised by a pod of dolphins in the Caribbean. The story follows her as she navigates two worlds.
LibraryThing member jenvid
The novel starts with the government finding a wild girl. She was lost in a plane wreck, and was raised by dolphins until she was saved. I am giving this book two stars because I feel it has loose ends. Why couldn't she be with her family? What were the real motives of Dr.Beck? What happened to her
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mother, and why didn't she reach out to Mila? All of these questions ran through my mind,and I just wish she would have been reunited with her real family. I did like the power of the font in this book. It really showed Mila's progress, and her feelings for wanting to go back with the dolphins. I tagged this book for disabilities. I feel that anyone with a disability can connect with Mila. I would do fishbowl discussions if I chose this as a reading assignment. Students could also do journal writings. I would post questions connected to the novel each day, and they would have to write a short paragraph in their journals.
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LibraryThing member momccarthy
"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
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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. " (Jan Lieberman's review)
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LibraryThing member ktinney2315937
Mila is a fifteen year old girl who is raised by dolphins and found on a remote island. Once she is found some doctors try to work with her to teach her how to talk and how to act like a normal human. Mila is fine with this at first and starts to make progressions, but when she realizes that she is
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forgetting her dolphin ways she stops progressing. In the end Mila doesn't want to be by humans she wants to return to her dolphin family and that is what she does.
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LibraryThing member Boog726
Mila wanted to live with dolphins, but she also wants to live with the humens. So she stays with they humens until she runs away to the dolphins.
LibraryThing member khenkins
The title of Karen Hesse’s new book reminded me of Island of the Blue Dolphins. But The Music of Dolphins is quite different. In this story, the main character, though similarly stranded on an island as a child, finds a family in a pod of dolphins. Mila is so much part of the family that she
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speaks the dolphin language, swims with them, and only leaves when she needs to go ashore to find food. I would have enjoyed this storyline if it centered on this life; however, Hesse has another tale to tell. Mila is found and is immediately taken to a lab in order for scientists to study her use of dolphin squeaks, trills -- music.

Hesse thereby sets up a conflict between what the scientists want and what Mila wants. Although she tries to understand and later comply with the researchers’ desires, she is ultimately saddened and made anxious by her situation. What if Mila had been placed, instead, with a scientist and their family, committed to nurturing and acclimatizing her to humanity, along with learning everything possible about the dolphin language? Then, rather than the locked doors and an institutional setting, she would be introduced to a more “real” human lifestyle.

The author clearly wants to examine what is involved in being human, and following “Flowers for Algernon,” she uses very large font and simple sentences in the beginning of Mira’s first person narration; the font grows smaller and the sentences contain more varied vocabulary as Mila’s time on land goes by. Then we see Mila’s narration revert to larger font and shorter sentences, indicating, of course, that she is rejecting the humanizing her adult guardians wish for her.

This is a book for six- to nine-year-olds, I would say, since it contains many elements of a bittersweet fairy tale.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. This is an honest review.
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½ (229 ratings; 3.8)
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