Finn, a fisherman's son, befriends a seal who becomes his selkie friend until she gives up her human life to rescue him in a storm.
Drawing on the long tradition of selkie tales, Spalding (Solomon's Tree, 2002, etc.) weaves a new story set in a Canadian community where salmon fishermen use nets. Finn works with his father, but he finds time to swim and play, and he longs to hear a seal sing. After he frees one from a net and nurses it back to health, she not only sings, she turns into a girl, Sheila, who can live on land and be his best friend—just as he had wished. All goes well until he ignores her advice and rows into a storm. Sheila sings once more and slips back into the ocean to save him, but when selkies enter saltwater, they turned back into seals. The magical elements of this friendship story seem believable in context, and the bittersweet ending is appropriate. Within the third-person narration are lyrical passages summing up important story elements. The text is set on or opposite Milelli's dark, expressive oil paintings, which focus mainly on the characters, giving only a rough idea of their surroundings.Read aloud or alone, the storytelling and illustrations work well together, creating a memorable, satisfying whole. (Picture book. 5-9)