CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 20. . . .January 28th, 2010.
The Melancholic Mermaid.
Kallie George. Illustrated by Abigail Halpin.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2010.
64 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.
Review by Claire Perrin.
**** / 4
...as Maude grew, she came to regard having two tails as a curse rather than a blessing.
The other merchildren never invited her to play tag-a-tail or race-around-the-shipwreck. "You're too fast," they complained. "It's not fair."
Every day after school, Maude swam home alone, as quickly as her two tails would take her.
"Oh Maudy, keep your fins up," encouraged her mother one night when Maude was particularly upset. "The other merchildren are just jealous. Never forget: twice the speed!"
"Twice the strength," muttered Maude.
Maude the melancholic mermaid is ostracized because she has two tails. In spite of the extra speed and strength she gains from having two tails, Maude is unhappy because she doesn't fit in with the other merchildren. She becomes more and more isolated from others and eventually spends all her time alone in the deep dark parts of the ocean until one day she was captured by a fishermen. Maude soon finds herself in a circus tank owned by a cruel Ring Mistress. A young circus boy named Tony is responsible for looking after Maude. Tony is also a misfit because he has webbed fingers and refuses to show his hands to anyone. When Tony finally ventures into the tank one day to clean it, Maude approaches him. He notices her crying and tries to convince the evil Ring Mistress to release her. Tony devises a daring plan to help Maude escape to the sea, but he realizes that he can't join her there. Chased by the circus owners, Maude uses her extra strength to swim with Tony to a small island where he can live beside the sea where she swims.
The story is divided into three chapters: the first about Maude, the second about Tony and the third about their escape. Although the outcome is somewhat predictable, the story is told beautifully, and it is impossible not to want the predictable ending. The story shares many fairy tale qualities, and Maude and Tony are the prince and princess who find each other in the end.
The Melancholic Mermaid is a unique and beautiful story of rejection, friendship, and young love. The watercolour illustrations by Abigail Halpin are stunning and complement the enchanting story perfectly. Various shades of blue and green are used to help establish the mood as the story progresses. The compelling artwork is one of the best features of this book.
Claire Perrin is a teacher-librarian with the Toronto District School Board.
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