Hatkoff, J., Hatkoff, I., & Hatkoff, C. (2009). Winter's Tail: How one little dolphin learned to swim again. New York: Scholastic Press.
PLOT SUMMARY: From the moment a young female dolphin is discovered tangled in a a fisherman's crab trap, Winter's Tail follows the dolphin's rescue and recovery through to the time when technology gave her a new prosthetic tail.
The photos are well done, incorporating many angles (including some from under the water) of Winter in her recovery process, but completely avoiding any bloody or disturbing images.
There is quite a bit of text on most pages, but there's also a bit of white space with at least two pictures on each page. Here's a sample page, to help you get the visual:
In terms of the amount of text, it may be too intimidating for many second or third graders, but with a teacher's urging they could tackle small segments. Showing younger students a TV segment on Winter might help to keep readers motivated.
The authors (I'm sorry, but there are too many Hatkoffs writing this book for me to list them all by name AGAIN) do an excellent job of presenting Winter as a sympathetic, but strong figure without anthropomorphizing her. The authors use simple language, without traveling too far over the line of "talking down" to young readers, as so many information books do.
There are a number of different topics that a teacher could use Winter's Tail to discuss. Some good starting places are dolphins' habitats, anatomy and behavior, the dangers human technology can pose to animals, the recovery process from a life-threatening injury or the process of adjusting to a prosthetic limb, the process of how a prosthesis is prepared, the importance of having a friend around to help someone through a trauma.
The fact that Winter's Tail: How one little dolphin learned to swim again lends itself to so many discussions, both in therms of formal education and practical relatable concerns is a great strength. Plus there's the extra bonus that Winter is an endearing media sensation, that may be able to sway the more hesitant readers into giving her story a try.
QUOTES OF NOTE:
"One cold winter morning, just off the east coast of Florida, a baby female dolphin managed to get tangled up in a crab trap."
"It was not clear she would survive. and even if she did survive, how would a dolphin manage without a tail? How would she swim? How would she thrive?"
"...the night air was cold. It was so chilly that the group decided to name the dolphin Winter."
"Winter lost her tail. What was left was a fleshy stump that would heal over time.
Would Winter be able to swim without her tail?"
"Winter did start to swim on her own, but she did not swim like other dolphins."
"The charming young dolphin also started to receive letters from her new fans, including many people who knew someone who had, or had themselves, lost or been born without a limb or had other disabilities. Everyone could relate to Winter."
TASTY RATING: !!!!
Don't forget! We're doing a Giveaway of a Winter's Tail prize pack that includes the book, a plush toy, keychain, and Nintendo DS game of Winter's story. To enter just leave a comment between now and October 18th. And check back for the announcement of the winner on October 19th!