Young dolphin Pearl encounters braggarts, bullies, and friends during her first day at magical dolphin school.
The Coral Cove Dolphin School is where young dolphins go to learn the magical skills they need for their roles as protectors of the ocean. Pearl’s excited on her first day. To help her, Pearl’s father gives her the advice that becomes her didactic motto for the rest of the book: “Always choose kindness.” At school, Pearl quickly makes friends but also encounters Flip, a cardboard character who exists just to brag. Of course Pearl, her new friends, and Flip all end up in the same pod. As the book progresses, the dolphins’ character traits (boastfulness, impetuosity, kindness, etc.) are hammered in repetitively, interspersed with worldbuilding exposition communicated in lectures. At recess with older dolphins, they encounter a bully (no motivations needed—he’s just a bully), who eventually dares Flip to swim alone in an area known for sharks. Sure enough, a shark appears, and the plucky heroes save the day (with the teachers arriving just in time for the danger to have passed). After this bonding experience, Flip no longer brags but is “smart and funny”—readers will have to take the narration’s word for it, though, as it’s just one last instance of telling instead of showing.
Sinks. (Fantasy. 6-9)