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August 14, 2011

New Books: Winter's Tail

I've become, in my time-pressed adult life, a big nonfiction reader, for many reasons. But I've always found children's nonfiction—at least beyond the work of giants of the genre like David Macaulay—to be difficult territory.

It's not that there's a lack of good nonfiction kids' books out there, especially in the science-and-nature genre, which offers tons of books about all sorts of animals and bugs and plants. It's more that there's not a lot that separates any one of these titles from the rest—most are driven by gorgeous, vivid photography and feature fairly basic writing. I always find myself at a loss to find reasons to recommend any particular one.

The dolphin saga Winter's Tail, from documentary-film and nature-book veterans Juliana, Isabella, and Craig Hatkoff, however, is an exception. While it also has its share of nature photography, this book is driven by its storytelling—so much so, in fact, that its tale is the basis for a major (fictionalized) family film that's coming out this fall. The saga of a dolphin that loses its tail in a crab trap and eventually learns to survive and thrive with a prosthetic one designed by a company that makes artificial human limbs, it grabbed the imagination of our six-year-old from the start and didn't let go.

Of course, we've also added the movie to our agenda later in the year (we’ll see how the true story mixes with Hollywood screenwriters and Harry Connick), but for now, I'm just grateful to have discovered a kids' nonfiction book I can say truly is several notches above the rest.

[Photo: Whitney Webster]

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