This second Tiptoe Guide (The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies, 2010) has readers scouring the seashore for mermaids and imagining what their lives must be like.
Not a story, but not a guidebook in the traditional sense either, this is more of a fits-and-starts foray into imagination that may leave many of its readers behind. Listen to a conch shell’s secrets, search a tidal pool for evidence of baby mermaids, imagine shells as mermaid jewelry, sand dollars as money and ocean plants as food, with crabs scrounging the leftovers. But the author goes beyond readers’ reach, as the mermaids play with dolphins, swim amid the coral and carry out their daily activities (primping, napping, shopping) on the ocean floor. While Paquette’s first capitalized on the popularity of fairy houses and the easy accessibility of most to the great outdoors, this latest narrows its readership by focusing on the ocean. It further disappoints this limited audience by highlighting beachcombing finds that are relatively rare, if not geographically impossible: perfect sand dollars and conch shells, ocean plants, tidal pools—not to mention the warm-enough-for-a-bathing-suit but nonetheless deserted, beach. Letourneau layers her fanciful watercolor mermaids atop beautiful photographs, which gives a jarring feel to the artwork. Further, when the text asks readers, “Can you see any mermaids anywhere?” she makes no effort at hiding them.
The glittery cover and promise of mermaids may attract readers initially, but there is little here to lure them for repeated readings. (Picture book. 4-7)