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BOOK: True story of eight dolphins’ survival told in disjointed but moving book

Book tells true story of how dolphins survived Hurricane Katrina. (Submitted photo)

By Jean Patrick

Republic Book Columnist

More than eight years have passed since Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. However, the stories are still with us.

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“Eight Dolphins of Katrina” follows the story of the dolphins and trainers from the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfsport, Miss.

Early on the morning of Aug. 28, 2005, the dolphin trainers jumped into action. Knowing that Katrina was approaching, they transported six of their dolphins to the nearby Best Western and Holiday Inn pools.

But eight of the dolphins were left in the pool at the Oceanarium.

When Katrina hit, a 40-foot wave destroyed the Oceanarium and the pool. When the trainers returned, the eight dolphins were gone.

They determined that the dolphins had been washed into the Gulf. But this was not a comforting thought. The trainers knew that the dolphins did not know how to survive on their own.

Author Janet Wyman Coleman tackles this multifaceted story. Overall, she attempts to focus on Tim (one of the trainers) and his concern for Jackie, one of the older dolphins. However, the story also focuses on other workers and dolphins.

The book’s format also feels slightly disjointed. The story of the rescued dolphins ends in the middle of the book. Then, Coleman begins a new section. At this point she presents true stories about dolphins who saved people and animals.

In the final section, Coleman returns to the Katrina dolphins and their rescuers, showing a scrapbook of photographs that follow the actual events. This includes profiles of the eight dolphins who were rescued.

If you like a random and eclectic approach to nonfiction, this book is definitely for you.

However, if you prefer to sink deeply into the story, take time to absorb Yan Nascimbene’s full-page watercolor illustrations. With simplicity and depth, he shows scenes of destruction, survival and tranquility.

“Eight Dolphins of Katrina.” By Janet Wyman Coleman. Illustrations by Yan Nascimbene. Houghton Mifflin, 2013. 40 pp.