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Eight Dolphins of Katrina: A True Tale of Survival

From Booklist

Amid the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, Coleman finds a happy ending. Dramatic narration, interspersed with dialogue taken from interviews, recounts how eight dolphins from the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Mississippi, survived a 40-foot tidal wave that crushed their dolphin house and put them into the open waters of the Gulf Coast. The action continues as doctors and trainers form a plan to rescue the stranded dolphins. Illustrated with evocative watercolors reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints, the riveting story is followed by informational text about “man’s best friend” in the water, from the evolution, characteristics, and mythology of dolphins to heroic accounts of their rescue of humans and other marine life, as well as threats to their existence. A concluding scrapbook with color photos shows remarkable before-and-after shots of the dolphins and their home. Other scenes depict the rescue as it occurred. Descriptive notes add commentary as well as interesting facts (e.g., dolphins get their water from food because, like humans, they can’t drink salty ocean water). Heartwarming and informative. Grades 1-4. --Angela Leeper

From Sarah Tuttle,
Local Love: Books for Children in New England

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Massachusetts writer Janet Wyman Coleman’s Eight Dolphins of Katrina: A True Tale of Survival. Even more importantly, I think kids will like it too. I know my child self would have!

Though it’s nonfiction, Eight Dolphins of Katrina really does read like fiction. I was reminded of the “True Animal Stories” and “Animal Heroes” anthologies I read by the bundle in middle school. The book doesn’t have a lot of facts about Hurricane Katrina. Instead, the only information about the hurricane are little tidbits that anchor the story in the specific time and place in which it occurred. Wonderful! Readers can get that other information elsewhere. The focus here is on the narrative and, of course, dolphins.

I would recommend this book for children who love animal stories. For children who love dolphins. For the aspiring marine biologist, and the kid who insists they will work at Sea World one day. It’s a good read.

Read full review here.

From The New York Times
Summer’s Super Swimmers

“Eight Dolphins of Katrina” tells the story of the dolphins who went missing from the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina caused a 40-foot tidal wave to destroy the dolphin house. When a trainer and the head of the Oceanarium came to look for the dolphins, they found their pool destroyed, with only mangled rafters and pieces of roof left in a sad puddle. The dolphins had disappeared.

The extraordinary story of how the dolphins — who had never had to feed themselves — survived and were rescued from the Gulf of Mexico by the Oceanarium staff, is little short of miraculous, and as told by Janet Wyman Coleman, includes recreated dialogue and a palpable sense of suspense. Yan Nascimbene’s wonderful watercolors convey first the chaos of the Oceanarium on the night the staff is preparing for the hurricane, the drama of Katrina’s landing (furniture, possessions and cars and houses bursting up into a white wave, against a black sky), and then the serene beauty of the gulf waters after the storm.

Read full review here.

From The Wall Street Journal

A different story of courage and adventure plays out in the informative real-life account of "Eight Dolphins of Katrina: A True Tale of Survival" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 40 pages, $16.99). Here author Janet Wyman Coleman uses fast-paced dialogue to convey the drama of the loss and eventual rescue of eight captive dolphins washed into the Gulf of Mexico during the catastrophic 2005 hurricane.

Ms. Coleman chronicles events principally from the point of view of the dolphin's trainers, who understood the animals' characters well and who persisted, long after the dolphins must surely have perished, in trying to find them. Spare, dramatic watercolor-washed illustrations by Yan Nascimbene give a feeling of timelessness to a temporal event, while a photo sequence at the end shows 6- to 9-year-olds what the dolphins really looked like. "They say that a dog is man's best friend, but that's on land," the author remarks. "In the water, it will always be the dolphin."

A version of this article appeared August 10, 2013, on page C10 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Behind Closed Doors.

From Jennifer M. Brown
Shelf Awareness

The page-turning action of this true story begins the morning before Hurricane Katrina hits, and tells of the heroic efforts of the team at the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Miss., to save the eight dolphins of the title.

Together, the trainers find temporary refuge for six of the dolphins--three in a pool at one hotel, and three in another hotel pool. Eight would have to remain in the Oceanarium. The cover photograph plays up the reality of the dolphins' situation, but Yan Nascimbene's interior watercolors capture the extent of the damage in a way that won't terrify young children. His image of Katrina's arrival--a forceful white splash crashing through a black backdrop and sending toys, books and furniture flying--allows the audience to see the destruction without the terrifying effect that a photograph of the 40-foot tidal wave's impact might have. When the trainers return to the Oceanarium the next day, the dolphins are gone. How do they make a case to search for their missing dolphins when so many people need saving? Unaccustomed to getting their own food, the dolphins could survive a week at most in the sea, the trainers estimate. Twelve days later, they get a boat and helicopter for their mission. How they find, corral and return the dolphins to safety makes for a harrowing tale.

Read full review here.

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