cover image Arion and the Dolphins

Arion and the Dolphins

Vikram Seth. Dutton Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45384-0

This unusual picture-book retelling of a Greek legend, about a young musician who swims with a dolphin, combines verse and prose, taking its life from Seth's (A Suitable Boy) libretto for an opera also called Arion and the Dolphin. The murky plot involves a music contest, a fateful journey across the Ionian Sea and the dolphin's demise, and it may prove difficult for younger readers to follow. The stiff and often formal-sounding phrasing is also a potential stumbling block. Ray's (Noah's Ark; Magical Tales from Many Lands) foamy greens and blues and her playful perspectives provide many passages with much-needed movement, and her chiseled-faced, toga-clad characters fit the ancient setting perfectly. Kids will readily identify with a few Free Willy-esque moments here, especially when the dolphin is seized for use as a performer (it dies in captivity). However, a mild environmental theme and the pleasant visuals are not likely to hold the reader's interest for long. All ages. (June)