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Robbie and the Dolphins, by Justin D'Ath

During a Sunday School picnic Robbie, wheelchair-bound and lonely, meets a returned soldier called Alan. Robbie, who tires of watching the other children play, follows Alan to where he is fishing on the nearby jetty. When Robbie wheels himself to the end of the jetty, he experiences a little dolphin magic: his cap is blown from his head and then thrown back to him by a passing dolphin. The event is so amazing that Robbie cannot convince Alan that it happened at all!

Although Robbie returns to watch the Sunday School cricket match he is determined to get back to the jetty. Despite the worsening weather, Robbie makes his way back to the empty jetty and spots the dolphin again. Robbie soon realises that the dolphin is asking him for help: she has a calf that is trapped and drowning beneath the jetty.

Using all his courage and strength, Robbie enters the water, and with a little help from Alan (who returns just in time) manages to cut the calf free from some tangled fishing line. This amazing achievement allows Robbie to discover his own strength. It also leads to Robbie being able to tell Alan about his father who did not return from the war.

Discussion questions

  • In what ways did polio affect Robbie's life? How did it affect his relationship with other people? Why did people only talk about polio when they thought Robbie couldn't hear them?
  • Why did Robbie want to go down to the jetty? Why did he return to it later?
  • What impact did the war have on Robbie and Alan? Why were many people reluctant to talk about the war?
  • Why do you think Robbie wanted to befriend Alan? What did Alan and Robbie have in common?
  • What does Robbie think of Mr Fergusson? What do you think?
  • Was Robbie brave or foolish to go into the water? Why do you think he made the decision to go?
  • Do you think dolphins are magic?

Classroom activities

  1. The title of a book, and its front cover, can determine whether people buy it. Ask your students to think of a new title and design a new cover for Robbie and the Dolphins.
  2. Use the Robbie at home worksheet (PDF 342kb) to help your students imagine what Robbie's home might be like. They need to think about the differences between their own home and a home in the 1940s. Students complete a drawing and script a conversation between Robbie and his mother.
  3. Students can use the How did the story go? worksheet (PDF 276kb) to monitor and graph the levels of action and excitement in each chapter of the story.
  4. Ask your students to conduct a research project on dolphins. After a written introduction, the information in the report should be organised under headings such as description, habitat, food and behaviour.
  5. Ask students to write an acrostic poem about dolphins.
  6. Students can complete an engaging interactive activity about the red Chevrolet truck featured in the story by clicking on the interactive below.

Book details

Robbie and the Dolphins
by Justin D'Ath. Illustrated by Jessica Johnson.

ISBN 1 876944 40 4
198mm x 130mm, 72pp
black and white illustrations

This book is no longer readily available.

Resources

Chev truck – Flash interactive

Worksheets: