Learn more about CCRLS
Reading recommendations from Novelist
Online learning resources
Cover image for The music of dolphins
The music of dolphins






Publication Information:
New York : Scholastic Press, ©1996.
Physical Description:
181 pages ; 22 cm
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. At the age of four, Mila fell from a refugee craft and was lost in the ocean between Cuba and Florida. Until her rescue eight years later, she lived as a wild child of the sea. As Mila now learns to communicate and deal with the complexities of human feelings, she develops an understanding of a strange new world--and the human soul.
Reading Level:
Middle School.

560 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader 3.4.

Reading Counts! 4.1.

AR mg 3.4 3.


Call Number
J Hesse, K.

On Order



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.

Author Notes

Karen Hesse (born on August 29, 1952 Baltimore, Maryland) is an American author of children's literature and literature for young adults. She studied theatre at Towson State College, and finished her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland in English, Psychology, and Anthropology. In 1998 she won the Newbery Medal for her young adult novel, Out of the Dust.

Hesse lives in Vermont with her husband and two teen-aged daughters.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8-This audio version of the book by Karen Hesse (Scholastic, 1969) is spellbinding. Mila has been raised by dolphins. When the Coast Guard discovers her, she is taken to a research facility and has to adjust to living with humans. She slowly acquires language and develops a love for music. Her love for music gives her insight into the human world yet allows her to remain connected to her dolphin world. Mila is very observant of her human caretakers and asks thought-provoking questions as to why humans behave as we do. The narration by Michele McHall and the original musical score enhance the story. McHall portrays the young Mila with a youthful voice; as Mila matures so does her voice. The musical score evokes the sounds of the sea and the dolphins. Mila will linger in the minds of listeners even when the tape is over. This extraordinary tale will enchant listeners and be popular in middle school and public libraries.-Ginny Harrell, William McGarrah Elementary School, Morrow, GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

"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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

A feral child raised by dolphins is rescued and taken to a research center where she is introduced to the world of human behavior. Initially delighted by her new skills, Mila soon feels a powerful draw to return to the dolphins. The varied typefaces and increasing complexity of language reflect Mila's growing abilities and are stylistically innovative. Though somewhat sentimental, the novel is thought provoking and original. From HORN BOOK 1996, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

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. (Fiction. 9-12)

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-7. It was no ordinary rescue for the Coast Guard: the girl preferred to stay unrescued, running away with movements more animal than human. The young teen, called Mila for miracle, and thought lost at sea years earlier, was raised by dolphins until her discovery. Now she begins her acculturation back into the world of humans, and the scene shifts to a special school-hospital in Boston, where doctors study and observe their fascinating find. Mila tells the story, speaking in simple, halting prose in the opening chapters as befits her own feelings of strangeness in a radically new environment. A quick study, she rapidly figures out human civilization and makes great strides in language and music. Being human disappoints her, however, and she feels longingly that "I have been coming back to the sea from the moment I left it." Return she does, though in a somewhat unconvincing reunion with her sea family at the end. The book works largely because of Mila's sharp observations, the stranger-in-a-strange-and scenario, and the incredible notion of the dolphin family, all of which will interest elementary and middle-school readers. --Anne O'Malley