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

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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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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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