It’s unclear what audience will appreciate this tale of a mermaid on land finding new life, love and loss.

MELE THE MERMAID

A mermaid refuses to enchant a sailor to his death, and after being condemned to live among humans, eventually finds her redemptive purpose in life in this difficult-to-categorize picture book.

Reluctant to lure humans to their deaths—an activity required of mermaids—Mele finds herself banished from her ocean home, legs replacing her fish tail, after she rescues a sailor from his watery grave. Her first encounters with humans make the former mermaid wonder whether Kilgore, king of the Merfolk, was right “that all humans were evil and deserved to drown to death.” Then a kindly dressmaker takes Mele in, makes her an entire wardrobe, teaches her to cook and clean, adopts her and takes her on as dressmaking apprentice. Mele inherits the dressmaking shop after her adoptive mother’s death and after falling in love and marrying Jonah the fisherman. But in this morality tale, at odds with its picture book format, the author has something other than a happily-ever-after fairy tale in mind. Jonah drowns at sea because a “mermaid that day had serenaded the crew of the ship, crashing it and killing everyone onboard, including her poor husband.” (As part of King Kilgore’s punishment for her, Mele is “unable to warn anybody about the mermaids who enchant the sailors to their doom.”) When she puts aside her grief, Mele thinks about how she and her husband were unable to have children and how her adoptive mother so graciously took her in. Mele’s new mission: to find other mermaids who “didn’t want to sing sailors to their death” and let them know that there is good in the world. Mele’s journey, infused with a tone of compassion, is clear. The book’s target audience is less well-defined: The colorful, awkwardly one-dimensional drawings are deliberately rendered as if by a grade-schooler, while the language and themes of guilt and redemption skew considerably older.

It’s unclear what audience will appreciate this tale of a mermaid on land finding new life, love and loss.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500995430

Page Count: 44

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2014

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It’s slanted toward action-oriented readers, who will find that Briticisms meld with all the other wonders of magic school.

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE

From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 1

In a rousing first novel, already an award-winner in England, Harry is just a baby when his magical parents are done in by Voldemort, a wizard so dastardly other wizards are scared to mention his name.

So Harry is brought up by his mean Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia Dursley, and picked on by his horrid cousin Dudley. He knows nothing about his magical birthright until ten years later, when he learns he’s to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hogwarts is a lot like English boarding school, except that instead of classes in math and grammar, the curriculum features courses in Transfiguration, Herbology, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Harry becomes the star player of Quidditch, a sort of mid-air ball game. With the help of his new friends Ron and Hermione, Harry solves a mystery involving a sorcerer’s stone that ultimately takes him to the evil Voldemort. This hugely enjoyable fantasy is filled with imaginative details, from oddly flavored jelly beans to dragons’ eggs hatched on the hearth.

It’s slanted toward action-oriented readers, who will find that Briticisms meld with all the other wonders of magic school. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-590-35340-3

Page Count: 309

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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