Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again

Common Sense Media says

Inspirational story of a dolphin who beats the odds.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn a bit about dolphins, from biology to social behavior, and how human trainers work with them. They’ll also learn about the challenges of designing prosthetic devices.

Positive messages

Winter wouldn’t have made it without the extraordinary efforts of a great many people. There’s much to appreciate here about community, connection, and overcoming obstacles.

Positive role models

From the fisherman who spotted a baby dolphin in trouble to the volunteers, researchers, and innovators who helped her survive and thrive, this story is full of people demonstrating compassion, responsibility, generosity, and ingenuity.

Violence & scariness

Mentions how the dolphin got stuck in a crab trap, but doesn't dwell on the injuries.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know there is nothing of concern in this animal tale. It opens with a badly wounded dolphin caught in a crab trap, but doesn't dwell on the details of her injuries. The rest of the book focuses on positive developments in her rehabilitation. Families may want to go online after reading this book and check out the Scholastic Discussion Guide or take a 45-minute Virtual Field Trip to visit Winter.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

In December 2005, a fisherman happens to notice a baby dolphin entangled in a crab trap. Rescuers free her, but the badly injured dolphin eventually loses her tail. Under the care of staff and volunteers at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Winter learns to swim -- but by swishing from side to side, like a fish. While her ability to adapt is impressive, her trainers grow concerned that she is damaging her spine with her new technique. The solution: a specially engineered prosthetic tail, with an innovative design that leads to improvements in prostheses for humans as well.

Is it any good?


Children and parents will cheer for gutsy Winter, who overcomes great challenges and touches the hearts of people around the world. The story is inspiring, and this telling makes the most of Winter’s spirited personality. The focus here is admirable -- on hope, resilience, and helping each other -- but parents may lament missed opportunities for detail and depth. More science and context (How unusual is Winter’s prosthetic tail? Are prostheses for animals common?) would have greatly enhanced the tale.
The back section of the book provides more information on dolphins and their trainers, the aquarium, and the company that made Winter’s tail (some of it seems to come straight from press releases, however). Parents who want to explore the material further can download material from Scholastic.

Serviceable photographs show researchers and trainers working with Winter, and how her prosthetic tail is constructed.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about all the people who have helped Winter. Do you think she would have survived on her own?

  • Kids may have more questions about prosthetic devices. Talk about different types of prostheses, from George Washington’s dentures to modern prosthetic lower limbs that allow runners to compete. How do these devices make a difference in people’s lives?

Book details

Authors:Isabella Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff
Book type:Non-Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Publication date:September 1, 2009
Number of pages:40
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 8
Read aloud:4
Read alone:7

This review of Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again was written by

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  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
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  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byKevinWWJD2 September 30, 2011

This it the true life story which became Dolphin Tale (the 3D Movie, released 9-30-11)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and wish I had it when my 3 kids were in preschool or elementary school, but the events probably had not yet happened (they are in their twenties now.) Although I have not yet seen the movie, it was released today 9-30-11. I bet it will be a great movie, worth watching.
Kid, 8 years old March 31, 2012


This book is amazing! It is educational in a way also. I would definitely recommend this book.
What other families should know
Great role models
Kid, 8 years old May 27, 2010
I think that we sold care for dalfins
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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