“There was once a special little dolphin called Ralphie. Ralphie was unique. He was orange with black stripes, he was kind, just like a dolphin, and brave, just like a tiger.”
Thus begins a story about the problems children face when their parents are separated. Ralphie’s parents cannot live together. His mommy is a dolphin and his daddy a tiger. His dad lives on land, whilst his mom lives in the water. When he’s out with his mom, Ralphie sees his friends playing with both their moms and dads and wishes he could do the same. He visits his dad, and again, he sees families playing and eating together and wonders, why he can’t eat with his mommy and daddy? Throughout the book, the answer is the same, “Because you’re special, darling.”
“But I don’t want to be special!” is Ralphie’s refrain.
For the opening two thirds we desperately feel Ralphie’s plight. A magnificent creature, special in many ways, but a small child who keenly feels that he is different from many of his friends.
Later, one of Ralphie’s dolphin friends wants to know when they’ll be able to walk on land, like Ralphie does. Their parents explain that they can’t do that; they’re dolphins and dolphins can’t survive on the land. The dolphin friend asks the obvious question – “How come Ralphie explored the land?”
That’s right, because he’s special.
The Very Special Dolphin is a delightfully simple tale that reassures young children of separated parents that their experience is still positive, even if it’s different from many of the children they know. The idea that through their variety of experience, they are gaining something other children may not get. They may feel that they are different, they may feel they are missing out on some things, but there are things to be gained from the situation too. They may get to walk on land whilst their friends can’t.
The story is very clear in its message. The idea of a “tiger dolphin” is inspired, because, frankly, who wouldn’t want to be one of those? Like many of the best picture books, the quality of the illustrations raises the story to a whole new level. The drawings in the book work in perfect tandem with the prose to bring the characters and story to life. The Very Special Dolphin is an elegant tale. One should bring comfort to many children who are learning to cope with life with separated parents.
If you would like to pick up a copy of The Very Special Dolphin, you can do so, here.
If you’d like to check out more of my book reviews, you can do so, here.
Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in order to write this review.