20th Anniversary Edition now available. 

When the captive dolphins she has befriended are threatened, Buddy Martin risks her father's condemnation and the law to save their lives in this powerful story about a dyslexic child, trapped by the limitations of her learning disability, who discovers that real freedom comes from being true to your heart. 

The original Dolphin Sky was written by hand on breaks from cooking meals for hundreds of passengers on my DC10 flights to London. I was in graduate school at the time, and it was my master’s thesis, and my first published novel. I started Dolphin Sky in 1985 when I’d been writing for three years—certainly not long enough to know what I was doing. Like any art form, to be good at it takes years of practice. DS was published in 1996, (G.P. Putnam) and for all the years since its publication I’ve wished I’d known enough to do a better job. I thought it was an important book then and it is, unfortunately, even more so now.

In the 30 years since I first conceived this book, and in the 20 years since it was first published, little has changed. Dolphins by the thousands are still held in captivity. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 was meant to afford them protection from being kept in cheesy roadside tourist attractions on which Stevens Everglade Eden was modeled, but there is a loophole in the act that permits the taking of dolphins for ‘education and research.’ Hotels in Las Vegas have dolphins in a swim program. Tricks have been relabeled as “behaviors,” though jumping through hoops is still included in many shows.


Many changes to the originally published version have been made—I hope for the better.

I hate writing; I love rewriting. I love having written a book. I think most writers do, but once a book’s in print, we’re supposed to let it go. But here’s the rub with Dolphin Sky. I love that book, and it’s out of print—has been for years. As some of you may recall, I wrote most of it in the lower galley of the DC10 between cooking meals, setting up tea carts, and occasionally peeking--mostly because I could--at the nose gear through a small window above my jump seat. It was my first novel—my first-born daughter. I’d only been writing 3 years when I started it; 12 by the time is was published. Copies are rare and hard to find, which from my point of view is a good thing because my agent got the rights reverted to me. For years I’ve wanted to rewrite it, bring to bear all I’ve learned about the craft of writing since Dolphin Sky was published in 1994. Last year, after seeing The Cove, (about the annual Japanese slaughter of thousands of dolphins,) I decided it was time. I spent seven months rewriting it from stem to stern—took out all the adverbs, shifted it to present tense, reworked every scene, and added my more recently acquired knowledge of dolphins. All that and none of my publishers wanted to reissue a book that had already been published. Nowadays, that's not a problem. With the help of a friend, Dolphin Sky is now an ebook, available on Kindle. I'm still hopeful that I will find a publisher to reissue it paperback, but so far no luck.

Nancy Collins, A local artist friend created this new cover. 




From Publishers Weekly
Readers will dive right into this affecting first novel set in 1968, about a dyslexic girl who braves great risks to befriend captive dolphins. On her 12th birthday, motherless buddy is entranced by some performing dolphins she sees at a squalid tourist trap near her home in an everglades fishing village. Considered "dumb" because she can't read properly and constantly gets directions reversed, buddy feels empathy for the animals her father says are "too dumb" to miss their lost freedom. Against the wishes of her father but abetted by her crippled and ailing grandfather, buddy surreptitiously undertakes the 10-mile boat trip as often as she can to see the dolphins, one of whom, annie, becomes her special friend. Meanwhile, while working on a science project, buddy teams up with a visiting scientist who not only warns her of the health dangers the dolphins face but also takes her to miami, where she is diagnosed with dyslexia. For buddy, knowledge is power: as she learns to overcome her disability, she likewise stands up for herself against her classroom nemesis and acts to save the dolphins. Believable characters, convincingly portrayed relationships, a deeply moving plot and a wealth of intimate details of everglades life combine to make this debut a real winner. Ages 10-14.

Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, inc. 

From School Library Journal grade 4-6
Buddy's life is not much brighter than that of the mistreated dolphins she sees at Stevens Everglade Eden. School is a torment to her; her crippled grandfather loves and respects her, but her father barely notices her except to express his disappointment at her apparent lack of intelligence. When jane Conroy, a biologist, befriends buddy, the woman recognizes her learning disability, does something about it, and opens up her eyes to the rights of animals. A lot happens in the three-month span of this story set in 1968, not all of it plausible. One visit to a psychologist seems to offer a cure for dyslexia? the problem barely surfaces again. Also, buddy develops a strong enough relationship with one of the captive dolphins to engineer a daring escape for them. Readers will surely recognize the story's similarities to Jordan Horowitz's free willy (scholastic, 1993), but some may question the wisdom of buddy's actions; these creatures are not likely to survive their freedom. The writing is occasionally awkward and lacks subtlety early on, but the characters are sensitively drawn and undergo convincing changes, from buddy's father's awakening to her grandfather's gradual decline and death. While the treatment of dyslexia is disappointing, the issue of animal rights is provocatively and emotionally discussed. Buddy's glossary of terms relating to her everglades world is informative and a nice touch.?Susan Oliver, hillsborough county science library at Mosi, tampa, fl

Copyright 1996 reed business information, inc. 

From Booklist gr. 5-7. 
On buddy's twelfth birthday, her father takes her to a second-rate dolphin show in the florida everglades. She identifies with the creatures at once, sensing their intelligence and recognizing their desire to communicate. Her grandfather takes her upriver to visit the dolphins in secret, and buddy's affinity for them grows, as does concern over their health. Meanwhile, buddy is troubled by her relationship with her father and her inability to read well and succeed at school. As the plot unwinds, buddy is diagnosed with dyslexia and is forced to put her newfound self-confidence to the test with a scheme to save the dolphins. The boating adventures bring suspense, and the theme of our inhumane treatment of other mammals adds substance and tenderness. In the end, buddy learns a lot about loving her father, grandfather, and the dolphins. A glossary written from buddy's point of view explains unfamiliar terms. Susan Deronne

From Kirkus reviews
A worthy first novel about buddy, 12. Her classmates call her ``dummy'' and ``dumb buddy,'' and her widower father has an equally low opinion of her. But buddy's grandfather, the admiral, loves and understands her because he sees words backwards just as she does. It's 1968 and nobody has heard of dyslexia in this backwater florida everglades community. Buddy is a keen observer of the natural world; when wildlife biologist Jane Conroy arrives to conduct research, the young girl finds her first ally outside the family, somebody who speaks up for the mistreated dolphins at Stevens Everglade Eden. With the support of jane, the admiral, and even her father, buddy takes the courageous step of setting the captive dolphins free. The events and dialogue of this novel are occasionally at the mercy of the need to convey information and move the plot forward. Certain gestures or phrases are overused. Outweighing these concerns are the book's strong points: buddy's distinctive voice and well-developed characterization, a beautifully evoked setting, and an emotionally satisfying conclusion.

(fiction. 10-14) -- copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, lp. All rights reserved.