Friday, July 8, 2016

How to Speak Dolphin by Ginny Rorby, 2015

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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?

(272 pages)

I saw this book in a Half-Priced Books and grabbed it because my parents were paying and it looked interesting. I'd never heard of the author, let alone the book, and I knew it would be either a hit or a miss. Luckily, it was a hit. I enjoyed it, and am very glad I took advantage of my opportunity to get it.

It was really interesting watching Lily struggle to take care of her autistic brother while finding her own feet as a person and navigating a relationship with her loving but intellectual stepfather, who hates to admit that his son will ever be less than amazing. At times I just wanted her to smack Don and tell him how sexist and elitist he was being, that there was nothing wrong with autism classes that taught boys to make paper flowers, that he needed to grow up and recognize that Adam is never going to be some kind of macho-manly boy. The trouble with that, though, is that as the book progresses you realize that Don really does want the best for Adam; he just doesn't see clearly enough through his love to recognize that he has to give up his preconceived notions about what "the best" really is. And you discover that Don really does love Lily; he just doesn't know how to deal with both her and Adam at the same time.

There's more going on that just Adam's autism, though, as Lily also has to struggle with the hole her mother's death left behind and decide how to feel about Nori's imprisonment when Don - a doctor - is so convinced that Adam's visits to the captive dolphin are making him happier. She also befriends Zoe, a kind (though sometimes alarmingly outspoken) blind girl who helps cast a whole new perspective on what it means to have a "disability." All of these plots are beautiful to watch as they unfold and weave themselves around Lily and around the struggles she and Don are having about Adam.

I don't think you have to run out right this second and buy a copy of How to Speak Dolphin, but if you see it on a shelf please don't hesitate to pick up a copy. It really is a very good book, and I recommend it to anyone who think it looks intriguing.


  1. Dear AKA Jaina, Thank you for the great review. I hope your aspirations for the future, include writing. It helps that you are an insatiable reader. I've always thought of reading as inhaling and writing as exhaling. Certainly can't do the latter w/out the former. I hope you'll keep at it. Thank you again. Ginny Rorby. P.S. one typo. You switched my name w/ Lily's in the second paragraph.

    1. Thank you, Ginny! I really appreciate your very kind words. I've changed the typo, too. Haha, I must have gotten the names Ginny and Lily mixed up because they're both in Harry Potter!


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