How to Speak Dolphin

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Age Range
9+
Release Date
May 26, 2015
ISBN
978-0545676052
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Schneider Family Book Award-winning author Ginny Rorby has created an irresistible dolphin story about a girl's struggle to help her autistic brother and herself. Lily loves her half-brother, Adam, but she has always struggled with him, too. He's definitely on the autism spectrum--though her step-father, Don, can barely bring himself to admit it--and caring for him has forced Lily to become as much mother as sister. All Lily wants is for her step-father to acknowledge that Adam has a real issue, that they need to find some kind of program that can help him. Then maybe she can have a life of her own. Adam's always loved dolphins, so when Don, an oncologist, hears about a young dolphin with cancer, he offers to help. He brings Lily and Adam along, and Adam and the dolphin--Nori--bond instantly. But though Lily sees how much Adam loves Nori, she also sees that the dolphin shouldn't spend the rest of her life in captivity, away from her family. Can Adam find real help somewhere else? And can Lily help Nori regain her freedom without betraying her family?

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Stunning story full of heart and empathy
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
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If I had to pick three books that either capture the importance and needed freedom for animals and/or the complex dynamics of people with disabilities, I would pick The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, and this book, How to Speak Dolphin by Ginny Rorby. Rorby’s story takes the perspective of Lily, a girl with a brother who is severely autistic who loves playing with dolphins. Her lens offers insight into a young woman who desperately wants friends, misses her dead mother, struggles with her relationship with her stepfather, and who wants the very best for her brother even though she isn’t sure if a captured dolphin is the best way to help him. The flaws, insecurities, strengths, and incredible growth in Lily’s character form a remarkable protagonist that many young readers will find relatable and an excellent guide to discovering and implementing empathy.

The plot unfolds beautifully. On an action level, very few ‘big’ events occur, but the smallest actions become so crucial in this story, making the reader enormously invested in the end result. The writing carries and absorbs the reader from chapter to chapter, all of which feel quick with how easy it is to get wrapped up in the story line. The dialogue is especially top notch, mastering the voice and dynamic of each character, from Zoe to Don to Suzanne. Even the occasional excerpts from Nori’s mentality are remarkable and feel realistic.

Readers looking for a diverse, emotional, and important story would do well with How to Speak Dolphin. Lily and the cast of characters will capture your heart and leave room for important and necessary discussions. Ginny Rorby has a magnificent authorial voice, and I can’t wait to read more from this author.
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