A flawed but worthy first novel about Buddy, 12. Her classmates call her ""dummy"" and ""Dumb Buddy,"" and her widower father has an equally low opinion of her. But Buddy's grandfather, the Admiral, loves and understands her because he sees words backwards just as she does. It's 1968 and nobody has heard of dyslexia in this backwater Florida Everglades community. Buddy is a keen observer of the natural world; when wildlife biologist Jane Conroy arrives to conduct research, the young girl finds her first ally outside the family, somebody who speaks up for the mistreated dolphins at Stevens Everglade Eden. With the support of Jane, the Admiral, and even her father, Buddy takes the courageous step of setting the captive dolphins free. The events and dialogue of this novel are occasionally at the mercy of the need to convey information and move the plot forward. Certain gestures or phrases are overused. Outweighing these concerns are the book's strong points: Buddy's distinctive voice and well-developed characterization, a beautifully evoked setting, and an emotionally satisfying conclusion.