Are mermaids real?
For thousands of years, stories of women and men with fishlike tales have been told, but this text employs the conceit that they really exist. The thinking that dugongs or the now-extinct Steller’s sea cows were mistaken for mermaids is quickly pooh-poohed. The author treats mermaids like other marine animals, discussing their habitats, their eating habits, and other aspects of their daily lives. Delicate, entrancing illustrations in an immersive, large trim display conventionally attractive shell bra–clad mermaids with diverse skin tones and hair colors, but they also show mermaids at various ages, from babies to older sea creatures, including some with different body types rarely depicted. The lone merman has pale skin, dark scraggly hair, a beard, and pointy barnacles on his shoulders. While people have always enjoyed myths and legends about these marvelous sea creatures, what’s the place of this book that is presented as natural history? There is no doubt that many readers will pore over the pictures, but is the young audience prepared to understand the joke? The last page shows a young human with brown skin and dark hair lying on a beach next to a mermaid with white skin, with text that reads: “If you go down to the water and wait, sooner or later you’ll see one.” Is the author playing at a tongue-in-cheek game of pretend or seeding disappointment? It all depends on the gullibility of the reader.
Luminescent illustrations dazzle, but this purported nonfiction study of mermaids confounds.(Picture book. 5-8)