top of page

Keiko’s Story: Free Willy Star Finds Home

What happened to Keiko, the orca star of the movie, “Free Willy?” It’s a question often posed to Linda Moore Kurth, author of the popular book, "Keiko’s Story: A Killer Whale Goes Home."

That book ended with the famous whale’s return to Iceland. But Keiko’s many fans want the whole story, and that’s what Linda has delivered with her updated and expanded version, "Keiko’s Story: Free Willy Star Finds Home." Readers experience important moments in Keiko’s journey, his life and near death in Mexico City, his rehabilitation at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, his further recovery in Iceland, and his surprising decision to swim to Norway.


This book is a celebration of Keiko and the heroes who went above and beyond to return the “Free Willy” star safely to his home waters and freedom. Full of gorgeous photos and lively details, this is an educational and entertaining read for kids, their families, and fans of all ages.

Linda’s Story

How did Linda come to write about the world's most famous orca, you might ask. Here's her answer:

"I was all grown up and had never seen the Free Willy movies when my dad offered to take me and my mom 'to see that whale they shipped in from Mexico.' There in that crowded observation room, I fell in love. A few weeks later I was back, meeting Keiko in person and interviewing his trainers.

"Two years later, I flew to Iceland and watched as he was lowered into a sea pen in his home waters off the coast of Iceland. My first book on him was published as a school and library book, it was read by children across the nation."

That book ended with Keiko in his sea pen. Several years later, one of the students who had read the book wrote and urged me to tell what happened after that. This new book, "Keiko's Story: Free Willy Star Finds Home,"  does just that, with much more background information and photos.

Linda Moore Kurth has done a great job chronicling the twists and turns of Keiko’s odyssey from his early days to stardom in the hit movie Free Willy, to becoming the first captive orca ever returned to his home waters. It’s a story for the ages and reinforces the important message that orcas and other cetaceans belong in the oceans with their families.

-- David Phillips, Director, International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute and President and Founder of the Free Willy Keiko Foundation

Keiko’s Story is a beautifully told and fascinating book. It is short and easy to read and yet provides interesting insight into the complexities of who Keiko was. The book chronicles the extraordinary actions this whale inspired from the humans who loved him. How do you prepare a whale abducted from his family when only a baby to be wild again? Keiko’s Story takes us inside this difficult and inspiring project. This is a story of love and hope and going the extra mile to right a terrible wrong.

Alexandra Morton , Independent Scientist, author, orca and ocean advocate

Keiko's story is delightful and informative, a fascinating and unique tale about saving a whale. It's a convoluted adventure with many plot twists that are fairly and accurately told in a stream of episodes suitable for readers of all ages. Junior readers especially would enjoy and learn much from the many insights into the natural history of orcas, their family lives and habitats. Keiko's endearing and clever personality shines brightly in these pages. I highly recommend this book.

Howard Garrett, Director, Orca Network, Center for Whale Research

Linda checks all the boxes in her new book. Having first met Keiko, better known as Free Willy, at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Linda did her research. Included are wonderful color pictures of the project to free Keiko, staff members she interviewed, and research that helps the reader understand Keiko’s life history. Linda traveled all the way to Iceland to see him make an historic landing in a US Air Force C-17 and his transfer to the newly constructed and largest orca pen ever built. She continued following him throughout his life in the sea pen, later release to the open ocean, swim to Norway, and his final resting place. It’s a fun read for young and old, and one you’re unlikely to put down until you finish. Linda leaves you with the understanding that orcas are a unique marine mammal within the dolphin family. Her message is timely, since so many orcas need our help, both in captivity and in the wild.

Jim Styers, Marine biologist, designer and manager of sea pens,

founder of the Whale and Dolphin Advocacy Group.

bottom of page