If a Dolphin Were a Fish

Eclectic Homeschool Online - October 2010

Delfina is a bottlenose dolphin who sounds a lot like our youngest: full of imagination. In If a Dolphin Were a Fish, Delfina is delightfully imagining what it would be like to be all kinds of different sea creatures. As we follow her through the playful pages (picture, for example, a dolphin sprouting feathers and perched on a piling as if she were a bird), we find ourselves learning lots of facts about dolphins!

Colorful pictures and rollicking rhyme tell Delfina's tale. After the story is over, the book's not done. Three additional pages of fun facts and learning activities about dolphins and porpoises in particular, and mammals in general, follow.

The suggested age range for this book is 4-8 years, but our older children enjoyed the book as well.

This book is available in hardcover and paperback in English, and in e-book format in both English and Spanish. Additional material for the book can be found at the Arbordale website, including learning activities, quizzes, and links to related websites.
- Virginia Jones

Feathered Quill Book Reviews-April 2010

The best educational children’s books effortlessly impart information into the young readers’ minds in an almost magical way, where the mere act of reading the book is so pleasurable that they don’t realize they’re learning as they’re reading. If a Dolphin Were a Fish is one of those magical-educational books.

Loran Wlodarski introduces Defina, a dolphin wondering what it would be like to be other sea creatures, such as a fish, a sea turtle, a shark, or an octopus. “If a dolphin were a fish, Delfina could spend all of her time underwater,” reads a page early in the book. Laurie Allen Klein’s illustrations on these fantasy pages quite ingeniously morph two animals, in this case the fish and the dolphin, in a way that captures the imagination as well as amuses young readers. (Even my 14-year-old son’s reaction to the book was a succinct yet apt, “Cool pictures.”) The author then takes the opportunity to inform readers on the differences between dolphins and the animal in question. “But a dolphin is not a fish,” reads the next page. “A fish uses gills to breathe underwater. Delfina comes to the water’s surface to breathe air through a blowhole on top of her head. Instead of gills, a dolphin breathes air with a pair of lungs.” In this clever back-and-forth fashion, readers learn about dolphin reproduction, senses, diet, physiology and skeletal system.

The knowledge in If a Dolphin Were a Fish comes from a good source. Wlodarski is a science writer for the Education Department of SeaWorld Orlando in addition to having worked as a scientific consultant for a number of publications and TV shows. Additionally, the educators at SeaWorld and the South Carolina Aquarium further corroborated the facts in this book.

And the learning in If a Dolphin Were a Fish continues after the story has concluded. The last few pages of the book, entitled “For Creative Minds,” provide a mélange of facts about dolphins, such as how to tell the difference between a dolphin and a porpoise, characteristics of a mammal, and how echolocation works, in addition to a coloring/craft page. Readers can find even more information about dolphins at the publisher’s website, which provides reading comprehension questions, quizzes, and an interesting variety of learning activities across the curriculum. Though this book is intended for children ages three to seven years old, surely parents and educators could use If a Dolphin Were a Fish as a jumping off point for more advanced learning in older children as well.

Quill says: Children certainly will learn from – and love - this story about a curious dolphin named Felina.

National Center for the Study of Chidren's Literature

This imaginative collaboration of text and art is a treasure. The young dolphin Delfina imagines what it would be like to be other creatures: fish, turtles, manatees, birds, etc. For each flight of fancy, Wlodarski relates the traits of the other animal, then on the next page tells why the dolphin is different. The prose is very good indeed.

But even more: in the illustrations, Wlodarski, in making comparisons between the animals’ characteristics, morphs Delfina into a combination of dolphin-turtle, dolphin-octopus, dolphin bird—wonderful conjurings of imaginary creatures that are very satisfying to see.

A thought-provoking, informative, and unusual book, If a Dolphin Were a Fish is outstanding for family reading.
- A. Allison

Reading to Know - June 11, 2009

We're big ocean animal fans around here thanks to. What animal we are most interested in changes on a daily basis. Sometimes it's about the clown fish, other times whales and then we can go on a jelly fish kick. Currently we're all about the sharks (which thankfully make an appearance in some of the following books!).

I've talked about how much I like Arbordale books before and these books just solidify my fanhood. They produce some quality reading material all about animals. Imagine a whole line of animal-related books - and you've got yourself Arbordale.

This past week Bookworm1 has been sick, sick, sick and so we were delighted to have some new ocean books to read and pass some time with. We started with If a Dolphin Were a Fish and it was an instant hit. Bookworm1 LOVES to compare things to one another. That seems to be his way of connecting with the world around him. "Does it move like a crane?" "Does it look like my hand?" He compares and contrasts like nobody's business. This book fit the bill for his way of thinking! It focuses on a dolphin named Delfina who wonders what it would be like if she were another type of animal.

If a dolphin were a sea turtle, Delfina would lay eggs on the beach.

But a dolphin is not a sea turtle. A dolphin does not lay eggs. Instead, a dolphin gives birth to her calf underwater.

Awesome. He LOVED this book.

I love Sylvan's books as well because they are sturdy, well-made and the pages are glossier which helps bring the illustrations and animals to life.

If you haven't had an opportunity to check any of their books out - do! I think you and yours will enjoy them very much. I know that we do.


Everybody loves dolphins. At least they should. They navigate by sonor and kick shark butt and eat sushi. That's one heckuva fish.

But wait, they're not fish at all. Nor is a dolphin an octopus or a sea turtle, as this book helpfully points out. Klein's whimsical drawings in colored pencils morph a dolphin named Delfina into several other animals including, quite amusingly, a pelican.

No-nonsense prose sets us straight: what dolphins eat, how they bear and raise their young, even why they're bald.

The end notes even explain why dolphins aren't really porpoises, and how they're both closely related to whales. I think this would be the perfect read before taking a kid to SeaWorld where, by the way, Klein works as the on-staff artist. 

NSTA Recommends (National Science Teacher Association)

When I read this book, I wished I had a classroom full of children to share it with. Written for a primary audience, it explains an important science concept, adaptations, in an entertaining way. It is also filled with wonderful and accurate illustrations created with colored pencils that children will enjoy.

The book describes how a dolphin named Delfina would be different if she possessed the same adaptations as other ocean animals. Throughout the text, Delfina imagines she becomes a fish, a sea turtle, a pelican, an octopus, a shark, and a manatee. The reader learns about the special adaptations of each of these animals and about those of the dolphin. The story cleverly points out similarities and differences among species. The content is aligned with the NSF Content Standard B, that covers characteristics of organisms as well as the Unifying Concept covering form and function. In addition to having good science content and an emphasis on animal adaptations, the book also sends readers the message that it's best to be yourself instead of trying to imitate others.

This book would make a great read-aloud story for young children, as the illustrations are bound to hold their attention. I would recommend this text to teachers of children in PreK-grade 3 who want to address the topic of adaptations, especially among sea creatures.
- Sarah Haines

Fishing is a great family activity, and it's easily combined with books and cooking. For example, you could combine a fishing trip with two gorgeously illustrated books from Arbordale Publishing:

If a Dolphin Were a Fish's Creative Minds section has teaching trivia, crafts and games related to dolphins and other sea creatures. This book has also been checked for accuracy by educators at the South Carolina Aquarium and SeaWorld, and includes a craft, too.
-Ann Marie Nichols

Armchair Interviews

A dolphin named Delfina wonders how life would be if she were another different animal. This story teaches about dolphins by explaining why Delfina can't be a turtle, a bird, or many other animals, while giving simple information about each animal. Certain fun for children and a solid tool for teachers with extra information and teaching aids in the back.

I love the colored pencil illustrations in this book, my favorite being Delfina as a turtle. Envision a small dolphin with a turtle shell and spots.

Writer and illustrator both work for Sea World Orlando in the Education Department. The book has dual lessons: One deals with the science of dolphins and the comparison animals. Hopefully children will also learn that by design, we are best at being ourselves.

Armchair Interview says this book is, "In a word: delightful.
- Linda Lee

Judith Nasse

We all love dolphins and are fascinated by the uncanny dolphin capabilities told about in stories and legends. In this book author Loran Wlodarski captures the charm of dolphins while giving us the facts that explain their special qualities. Loran depicts these qualities and features through Delphina Dolphin who wonders about the similarities and differences between herself and other sea dwelling animals such as pelicans, sharks, fish, octopuses, sea turtles, and manatees.

Laurie Allen Klein’s informative and often-humorous pencil drawings bring the story even more alive. What imaginative powers both Loran and Laurie have to show us how dolphins live, eat, navigate, and breed. The activity pages are interactive in that they ask children provocative questions. They also suggest activities children might like to follow, One such activity is to draw a line fifteen feet long, in chalk outside, to visualize how high dolphins can leap. What fun as children then try to jump as far as they can. This book is highly recommended for children ages 3 – 8. Preschool through fourth grade teachers will welcome this book into their sea life units.
-Judith Nasse, Children's Book Reviewer - September, 2006

What can a dolphin be if it’s not a dolphin? In a game of pretend a bottlenose dolphin explores the possibility of trading identities with another ocean animal.

Delfina enjoys her marine friends and would like to trade places with them but she quickly realizes her unique characteristics won’t fit with the other animal’s adaptations. If A Dolphin Were a Fish, by Loran Wlodarski, teaches about dolphins through a simple study of comparative anatomy. For example, can dolphin be a fish?

Delfina would really like to be a fish and spend every day under water, but she can’t. ”A fish uses gills to breathe underwater. Delfina comes to the water’s surface to breathe air through a blowhole on top of her head. Instead of gills, a dolphin breathes air with a pair of lungs.” Young readers who are paying attention learn a little about how both fish and dolphins breathe.

Illustrator, Laurie Allen Klein, disguises Delfina as a large fish with her pastel pencil art work. Children will still recognize her, even as a large fish, but they will need to look close. The illustrator morphed Delfina into an image that resembled both the dolphin and animal she was pretending to be.

Through this game of pretend we learned about several ocean animals and animal adaptations. Delfina pretended to be a sea turtle, shark, manatee, pelican, and octopus. One of the following adaptations suited Delfina, but the other suited another animal. In each pair one is a dolphin and the other is one of the animals she pretends to become. Can you match the adaptation to the animal and can you determine which description belongs to Delfina?
- Carol Knepp, former teacher for

Science Books & Film Review- Summer 2006

...I envisioned reading it [If a Dolphin Were A Fish] aloud to my children when they were preschoolers. In doing so, I recognized a regular repetition and cadence of the narrative that always entranced my children, and I soon looked forward to the next page and part of the story that was unfolding.

The story follows Delphina the dolphin (a play on the scientific family name, Delphinidae) as she wonders what it would be like to be another animal. During her imaginary journey, she tries on fins like a fish, a shell like a turtle, a nose like a shark, and even feathers like a pelican. In the process, we learn how dolphins and each of those animals are different; for example, dolphins probably have no sense of smell, an octopus has no bones, and even porpoises and dolphins are different.

The end papers include some additional information for teachers that would be useful in class discussions, as well as a page to be photocopied so that children can modify their dolphin to match the various parts of the story.

This book will be satisfying reading, and I am certain that young children will listen intently or read it themselves.
John E. Penick, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

Horn Book Guide - Fall 2006

Delfina is a bottlenose dolphin who imagines what it would be like to be other animals: what if she were a manatee or an octopus? Colored-pencil illustrations combine Delfina’s dolphin features with other animals’ and interesting information about dolphin anatomy and behavior is presented with each comparison. Additional facts follow the text. Rating 4: Recommended, with minor flaws.

Through The Looking Glass

Delfina is a dolphin and sometimes she wonders “what it would be like to be other animals.” For example, if Delfina was a sea turtle she would lay lots of eggs on a beach. But, as Delfina is not, when it is time, she will give birth to her calf in the sea. If she were a manatee she would eat plants and if she were a pelican she would have feathers to keep her warm. Instead Delfina eats fish and other sea creatures and she has a layer of fat under her skin which keeps her warm.

In this clever picture book children will discover important characteristics about dolphins but they will also learn interesting facts about other animals as well. Children will find the pictures of Delfina being a pelican, a turtle and an octopus amusing and they may find themselves imagining what it might be like to be one of these creatures for themselves. At the back of the book the author provides his readers with further facts about dolphins and their relatives.
- Marya Jansen-Gruber, Editor

Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database

The colorful cover of this book places Delfina the Dolphin face to face with a fish. The inviting artwork pulls readers inside, where Delfina imagines what it would be like if she were a different creature.  She imagines being a fish, turtle, shark, manatee, bird, and octopus.  The text presents a ton of interesting facts about these creatures and the author cleverly makes comparisons between the characteristics of dolphins and the others.  How they breathe, smell, and keep warm are but a few of the comparisons made. Bright, realistic illustrations add flavor.  In one, a cut-away view of Delfina’s skeletal make-up has extra appeal.  The lesson that it is fun and okay to use imaginations comes across well.  End material consists of extra dolphin facts and an activity that allows for creating dolphin adaptations.  The all-encompassing format allows teachers and librarians to use this book for a variety of classroom lessons.  The text is a fun read, engaging, and well-structured.  Readers can pick it up, crack open the cover, and enjoy!
- Nancy Garhan Attebury

Florida Media Quarterly - Fall 2006

In this book containing many facts about dolphins, the author uses repetitious phrases: “If a dolphin was a ________” and “But a dolphin is not a __________” to compare a dolphin to a fish, turtle, shark, manatee, bird, and an octopus.

The colored pencil illustrations are scientific renditions of marine life. There are attractive borders on some pages. Following the story is a section with additional facts to interest children.
- Ms. Frankie Morgan, Media Specialist at Crown Point Elementary School in Jacksonville, FL

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine - July 2007

If a Dolphin Were a Fish follows Delfina the dolphin as she imagines she becomes other sea animals. It sends the message to young readers (geared to children 4-8) that it is best to be yourself rather than trying to be like others. This hardcover book comes with a dust jacket and has 32 pages.

Delfina imagines becoming a fish with gills, a pelican with feathers, an octopus, a shark, a sea turtle, even a manatee! Along the way, the story features fun facts about the differences in all these animals. The accuracy of facts in this book was reviewed by the Education Department at Sea World. The “For Creative Minds” section at the back of the book gives more information to expand the learning possibilities and a coloring craft. Of course, you can get even more information and fun facts by going to the Arbordale website at
- Lisa Barthuly

Laura Williams' Musings

This adorable book with is its main character Delfina is such a delightful read as it is to look at the photos. The dolphin imagines she is other animals in the stories and the photos reflect her "transformations".

My children enjoyed the story as much as the illustrations. My oldest two boys were intrigued by how many eggs a sea turtle laid, that dolphins could not smell, and that dolphins had five fingers in its front flipper.

The Creative Minds section in the back teaches the child more about dolphins.

I give this book a bright line of 5 stars
- Laura Williams

The Reading Tub - March 2008

Summary: Delfina may be a bottlenose dolphin, but that doesn't stop her from wondering what it would be like to be different. What would she look like as a manatee? or a sea turtle? This picture book draws on factual information about animals in/around the ocean to build a story about being yourself..

Type of Reading: family reading, anytime reading, playtime reading, read aloud book, learning to read

Recommended Age: read together: 4 to 8; read yourself: 8 and up

Age of Child: Shared with a kindergarten class with 20 5- and 6-year-olds.

Little Kid Reaction: The kids loved the pictures of Delfina transformed to look like other animals.

Big Kid Reaction: This is a VERY CLEVER book. The illustrations are wonderful, clever, and fun to look at on their own. [We love the Hatteras Light!] What makes it particularly fun is that it reads like a story, but it throws LOTS of really good facts at you, too.

Pros: This is an engaging picture book that will get kids involved in the "what-ifs" and discerning information about life in the ocean.

Cons: None.

Borrow or Buy: Buy! This is a great book for young audiences, but sophisticated enough that a remedial reader (third and fourth grade) will find it a book of substance.

Reader's Haven Reviews-December 2015

Delfina is a dolphin who wonders what it might be like to be another animal. The reader learns about other animals and how they live compared to Delfina, the dolphin.

The illustrations are wonderful and help to keep the reader engaged. They flow (like water) with a gentle artistry and the use of watercolors is beautifully executed. This is a beautifully written story - simply stated but engaging and educational. I recommend this book to everyone especially elementary children.  There is a section in the back called "For Creative Minds". This is an educational section for further learning.