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I was down in the Children's library the other afternoon and yet another lovely book came back for checking. The front cover illustration grabbed my attention immediately and, when I saw the names of not only one but TWO of my favourite children's authors on it I knew I HAD to read it! The book in question is Dolphin Boy, written by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Michael Foreman.
Dolphin Boy is a children's picture book aimed at the younger reader. The amount of text and the vocabulary used is probably aimed at the slightly more confident younger reader, rather than a real beginner. Some of the words may be a little hard, but, as a bedtime story book, or one to read with your child and assist with understanding bits they don't recognise, it would suit any age.
As the title suggests this is a story about a boy and a dolphin! Sounds very simple, but there's a little more to it than that. Dolphin Boy charts the friendship between a boy called Jim, who lives in a small Cornish fishing village, and a dolphin who comes to swim in the sea around the coast. The village isn't doing great economically; the fish have all gone and there is no longer any work for the fishermen. The story sees Jim and the villagers as they rally round to help the dolphin and the way the dolphin breathes life and restores community spirit to the village.
I was pleased to say that there was some depth to the plot of the story too. The social aspect underpinning the book is a good addition and helps to carry what could easily become a little one dimensional and boring for an adult to read time after time to their little ones. What the two authors have given the reader is an interesting story told in a simple, yet effective way.
It is a charming story that runs through a variety of emotions. We go through sadness, happiness and loss as the pages turn! There is an almost magical element to the relationship between the boy and the dolphin and the book conveys a real sense of the atmosphere of the sea. I really enjoyed the lovely way the two main characters interact with each other. Morpurgo captures the bond between them really well and this shines through in the wonderful descriptive text that he uses. This is also mirrored by the beautiful illustrations of Foreman.
According to the back cover none other than Quentin Blake agrees with me about how wonderful the illustrations are. He says "Michael Foreman has a flair for turning a book into a special occasion." This is not an understatement! Foreman's paintings offer a vibrant, soft watercolour illustration to Morpurgo's well written text. Throughout the story the colours match the mood of the words; when there is sadness grey dominates, giving way to brighter shades during the happier stages. The vocabulary also matches the mood; the words are brighter and more colourful when the characters are happy.
The text also has quite a poetic feel to it, for example
"Rainbow coloured flash when jumping into the air. Boat called Sally May - went to look for Smiler. Saw gulls and gannets.
Suddenly the sea began to boil and bubble around the boat, almost as if it was coming alive. And it WAS alive too, alive with dolphins!"
You can almost picture the sea boiling and bubbling in your mind.
The collaboration between the two Michaels works really well. As authors of several excellent children's books they obviously know what makes a good picture book and a good story too. Foreman seems to have a knack of knowing the right way to express what is happening through a series of lovely watercolour illustrations. Throughout the colours and soft images will captivate any child (and adult as well) and generate a feeling of wellbeing and beauty.
I really recommend Dolphin Boy as a lovely book to read with a small child. It could become one of those classic picture books that will be bought out time and time again and be a favourite story for years to come.
PRODUCT DETAILS ~~~
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd; New edition edition (4 Aug 2005)
My copy came from the library and cost me nothing. If you would like one of your own there are new and used copies available to purchase on Amazon.