By: Loran Wlodarski
Illustrations by: Laurie Allen Klein
Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
Publication Date: March 2007
Reviewed by: Pamela Victor
Review Date: April 1, 2010
The best educational children’s books effortlessly impart information into the young readers’ minds in an almost magical way, where the mere act of reading the book is so pleasurable that they don’t realize they’re learning as they’re reading. If a Dolphin Were a Fish is one of those magical-educational books.
Loran Wlodarski introduces Defina, a dolphin wondering what it would be like to be other sea creatures, such as a fish, a sea turtle, a shark, or an octopus. “If a dolphin were a fish, Delfina could spend all of her time underwater,” reads a page early in the book. Laurie Allen Klein’s illustrations on these fantasy pages quite ingeniously morph two animals, in this case the fish and the dolphin, in a way that captures the imagination as well as amuses young readers. (Even my 14-year-old son’s reaction to the book was a succinct yet apt, “Cool pictures.”) The author then takes the opportunity to inform readers on the differences between dolphins and the animal in question. “But a dolphin is not a fish,” reads the next page. “A fish uses gills to breathe underwater. Delfina comes to the water’s surface to breathe air through a blowhole on top of her head. Instead of gills, a dolphin breathes air with a pair of lungs.” In this clever back-and-forth fashion, readers learn about dolphin reproduction, senses, diet, physiology and skeletal system.
The knowledge in If a Dolphin Were a Fish comes from a good source. Wlodarski is a science writer for the Education Department of SeaWorld Orlando in addition to having worked as a scientific consultant for a number of publications and TV shows. Additionally, the educators at SeaWorld and the South Carolina Aquarium further corroborated the facts in this book.
And the learning in If a Dolphin Were a Fish continues after the story has concluded. The last few pages of the book, entitled “For Creative Minds,” provide a mélange of facts about dolphins, such as how to tell the difference between a dolphin and a porpoise, characteristics of a mammal, and how echolocation works, in addition to a coloring/craft page. Readers can find even more information about dolphins at the publisher’s website SylvanDellPublishing.com, which provides reading comprehension questions, quizzes, and an interesting variety of learning activities across the curriculum. Though this book is intended for children ages three to seven years old, surely parents and educators could use If a Dolphin Were a Fish as a jumping off point for more advanced learning in older children as well.
Quill says: Children certainly will learn from – and love - this story about a curious dolphin named Delfina.