My cousins and I engaged in some depressingly stimulating conversation round the Christmas table: someone brought up the movie Blackfish, which I’m hereby referring to as part of the horror genre, and we naturally segued into talking about our childhood trips to Sea World, just down the coast. When I was young, a whale or dolphin sighting was not a rare occurrence in Southern California, at beaches like Santa Monica, Zuma, and Laguna. Swimming along just beyond the wave crash-line, I’d often see a flipper or two checking me out from a safe distance. I fell in love with dolphins, with their smile-like faces and affectionate relationship with us landpeople, they’re like the unicorns of the sea – beautiful, revered, guileless – all the stuff of little girls dreams.
My love affair with dolphins only increased through reading some of the best young adult books I believe have ever been written, featuring a girl and her dolphins. All intensifying my own personal viewpoint that, like unicorns (and Hippogriffs) dolphins only appear when you really need them, and only, like the Great Pumpkin, if you’re really sincere. I honestly don’t know which came first: my love of the sea, and silvery, joyous dolphins in particular, or the YA lit with dolphins in a starring role. Because when I go back and re-read my favorite girl-and-her-dolphin books, memories come flooding back to me along with the adventures. And it’s all good stuff.
There are tons of books out there featuring our best friends of the sea, but I’m just talking about the classic, possibly semi-fictional, non-cartoon versions. My three favorites, then:
A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeline L’Engle
Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
Dolphin Island, by Arthur C. Clarke
Did you know that the co-writer of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey is also a full-fledged British Knight, winner of a Nebula award for science fiction writing, known as one of “The Big Three” science fiction writer guys (along with Robert Heinlen and Isaac Asimov) and, perhaps most importantly for our discussion, the author of Dolphin Island? I must admit I did not till recently, and I’ve decided to re-read Dolphin Island as as my first book of 2014, in hopes that it will take me back to the good old days, before Blackfish attempted to ruin everything. Because here’s the gist of Sir Clarke’s story: Late one futuristic night, a spaceship makes an emergency crash landing in the Pacific Ocean, leaving stowaway Johnny Clinton to be saved by the “People of the Sea”. Dolphins, natch. Led to an island in the Great Barrier Reef, Johnny’s adventure leads him to a mad scientist who is attempting to communicate with the People of the Sea. Will Johnny survive island living, typhoons, swimming naked, and save the (actual) people of the island? Will the dolphins help? I’m sure these questions are answered with a resounding “yes”, but I honestly cannot remember the details, which makes me even more excited to dive back in.
This is just the tip of the iceberg – so please feel free to add your favorite suggestions.
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