One White Dolphin

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2013-06-11
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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A mother dolphin and her albino calf are in peril in this heart-pounding adventure from the author of the acclaimed ecological novel Wild Wings.

Kara is not sorry she punched Jake in the nose—she simply couldn’t stand to hear him say one more nasty thing about her missing mother, or her out-of-work father…or her. But it’s more than a broken nose to Jake’s family: It’s fuel for the fire. They’ve had it with Kara’s family and their devotion to protecting marine life and saving the reef. Dredging the reef will mean fisherman can reel in more money. That’s what the town needs.

But what the town gets is an unexpected new kid, a Paralympics sailing hopeful named Felix. When a baby albino dolphin caught in old fishing netting washes ashore, Felix and Kara work with vets and specialists to save her and reunite her with her mother, setting off a chain of events that might just save the reef.

Written by a veterinarian and brimming with bravery and beauty, this “poignant and satisfying story about acting for the greater good” (Publishers Weekly) taps into the radiance of nature and dives into the important, timely issue of environmental protection and ecology.



I rip another page from the book.

I tear it out, right out.

The paper is tissue thin and edged with gold. It flutters in my hand like a tiny bird, desperate to escape. I let it go and watch it fly up into the clear, blue sky.

I rip out another, and another. The pages soar and tumble across cow-scattered fields into the haze above the silver blue sea.

“Oi, Kara!”

I look down. Jake’s pink face is squinting up at me against the glare of sun. Ethan’s standing next to him, trying to find fingerholds in the granite blocks of the wall. He jumps to pull me off, but I pull my legs up out of reach.

The wall’s too high.

I’m safe up here.

“Kara-Two-Planks!” yells Jake. “Teacher’s looking for you.”

I run my finger along the rough leather binding of the book. It’s heavy in my lap. The hard edges dig into my skin. I rip out another page and set it free, soaring upward, skyward.

“You’re in big trouble, Kara-Two-Planks!” shouts Jake. “That Bible is school property. You’ll be sent to hell for that.”

“She won’t get there, though,” calls Ethan. “She won’t be able to read the signs.”

Jake laughs. “Learn to spell your name yet, Kara? K-a-r-a W-o-o-d. Kara-Thick-as-Two-Planks-of-Wood.”

I’ve heard all this before, a thousand times. I turn my back on them and look down to the footpath on the far side of the wall. It runs one way to the coast path along the cliffs, and the other, down steps tangled with nettles and bindweed to the harbor in the town below.

“What I want to know,” says Ethan, “is Kara Wood as thick as her dad?”

“My mum says,” confides Jake, “that Kara’s dad lost his last job because he couldn’t write his own name.”

Ethan sniggers.

I spin around and glare at them. “Shut up about my dad.”

But Jake’s not finished. “I heard your mum had to write his name for him. Isn’t that right, Kara?”

My eyes burn hot with tears.

“Who writes his name for him now, Kara?”

I blink hard and turn back to the sea. The waves out there are tipped with white. I feel the hot sun on my face. I mustn’t cry. I won’t let them see me cry. If I ignore them, they’ll go away like they always do. The sea breeze is damp and salty. It catches the white cotton of my shirt and billows it out like a spinnaker sail. I close my eyes and imagine I am sailing across an endless sea, a wide, blue ocean, with nothing else around me but the sun and wind and sky.

“Oi, Kara!”

Jake’s still there.

“It’s a shame about the Merry Mermaid!” he shouts.

If Jake knows about the Merry Mermaid, then everyone does.

I turn around to look at him.

A few other children from class are watching us from a distance. Chloe and Ella are both looking this way from under the deep shade of the horse chestnut tree. Adam has stopped his game, his soccer ball clutched against his chest.

“Still,” Jake says, “it never was much of a pub. It’ll make a great holiday home for someone, a rich Londoner probably. I heard the food was terrible.”

Jake knows my dad works in the kitchens of the Merry Mermaid. He knows he’ll have no job and no money to live on when it closes at the end of the summer. Jake would love it if we had to move from Cornwall.

“Maybe your dad can come back and work for mine on our trawlers?” says Jake. “Tell your dad we’ll be fishing for shellfish when the dredging ban is lifted in ten days’ time. Dad’s even bought new gear to rake every corner of the seabed out there. He can’t wait.”

I just glare at him.

Jake laughs. “I’ll ask him if you can come too.”

I tighten my grip on the Bible’s hard leather binding.

Beyond, I see Mrs. Carter striding toward us. I could try and hide the book, but Jake and Ethan would tell her anyway.

“Have you seen the advertisement at the boatyard, Kara?” asks Jake. He’s looking at me now and grinning. Ethan’s grinning too. They know something I don’t. It’s in Jake’s voice, and he’s bursting to tell me.

Mrs. Carter’s halfway across the playground. Her face is set and grim.

“TheMoana’s up for sale!” Jake shouts out. He’s jubilant now.

I scramble to my feet. “Liar!”

It can’t be true. I’m sure it can’t.

But Jake is smug. He pulls his trump card. “My dad’s going to buy her and chop her up for firewood!” he shouts. “’Cause he says that’s all she’s good for.”

I hurl the book at him. The Bible’s hard edge slams into Jake’s nose and he drops like a stone, both hands clutched across his face.

Mrs. Carter is running now. “Kara!”

I glance down at Jake, moaning in the dirt below me.

“Kara, come down now!” Mrs. Carter yells.

But I turn away from them all and jump, leaving Jake Evans bleeding through his fat fingers, turning the dust-dry ground blood red.

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