Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Music of Dolphins

The Music of Dolphins By Karen Hesse

This book is a fairly sophisticated and complex story about a young teenage girl named Mila who has been living in a secluded location with dolphins for most of her life. She is eventually discovered, taken to a research facility against her will, and scientists attempt to teach Mila the English language as well as other American customs. Mila progresses quickly and is eager to learn, but struggles with adapting to the different environment she finds herself in. She longs for her home, the language and traditions she’s familiar with, and the dolphin family she left behind. Although Mila is amazed by all the things this new world has to offer her, she wishes to go back to the ocean where she believes she genuinely belongs.
I like this book because I believe it address many important themes and issues regarding conformity and cultural differences. It may appear that this book is not relevant to a social justice curriculum but Mila’s dolphin culture is very distinct and is constantly being dismissed as not legitimate throughout the book, speaking very realistically to our current society. Also in my experience, students really enjoy reading this book because its written as a series of diary entries written by Mila that become increasingly more sophisticated as Mila attains more language skills.
I used this book before with advanced readers from a fourth grade class. We read the book for a book club and the students and I were able to thoroughly and meaningfully connect the themes raised in the book to current issues in society and significant events in the past. We discussed why people in the book didn’t acknowledge Mila’s dolphin culture and how Mila’s abduction and forced conformity to the dominant culture is similar to other events in history such as slavery. When used in this way, this book can definitely be integrated into a social justice unit.

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