Friday, April 09, 2010

Back in the Swim: Winter's Tale: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again by Juliana, Isabella, and Craig Hatkoff

This is a story of Winter, a young female bottlenose dolphin who injured and then loses her tail after being entangled in a crab trap.

A dolphin's very life depends on its ability to move sleekly and swiftly through the water, propelled by up-down movements of its horizontal flukes. When fishermen find a little dolphin, with her tail irreparably mangled in a trap and barely able to keep her head above water to breathe, they rush to free her and take her to the nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium for care. Marine biologists there, however, despair that a dolphin without a tail can survive without the ability to swim.

But after a few days of recovery, staff scientists see that the dolphin, whom they name Winter for the season of her discovery, is beginning to move around the tank by undulating her body from side to side like a fish. Winter's intelligence and perseverance soon make her a cetacean celebrity who even makes the de rigueur personal appearance on The Today Show.

But there is another milestone ahead for this determined dolphin. Impressed with her adaptability and concerned that the side-to-side movement would eventually injure her spine and internal organs and shorten her life, her team of caretakers come up with a novel remedy. A orthoticist, Kevin Carroll, is called in to design the first-ever prosthetic dolphin tail. With this ingenious construction, made to undulate in the proper dolphin direction and deftly padded with silicon gel to preserve her delicate skin, Winter soon relearns to swim normally and now serves as an inspiration to her human fans.

"Winter is one little dolphin who gives people hope and shows us that anything is possible," her authors write.

The Hatkoff family--Juliana, Isabella, and Craig Hatkoff, first known for their best-selling picture books about the amazing friendship of an orphaned baby hippo and a 130-year-old giant tortoise, Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship, have added an engaging new true tale, Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned To Swim Again (Scholastic, 2009, to their collection of amazing animal stories. As usual, the photos by Craig Hatkoff are remarkably appealing to young nature lovers, and the genuinely inspiring story is told engagingly but without sentimentality. Other nonfiction photo stories by the Hatkoffs include Looking For Miza, How One Little Polar Bear Captivated The World (Knut), and Leo, The Snow Leopard.

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