Five intertwined short stories all involve journeys that rarely conclude at home.
In “The Fisherman’s Daughter,” set in the Ghana Empire, Ajuba prefers fishing with her father over helping her mother. When Ajuba’s father dies at sea, Nana, the wise woman, says the sea also wants Ajuba. The villagers give her to the sea, where she must accomplish several monumental tasks and return her father’s bones to the village. Eventually Ajuba becomes a Mami-Wata—a mermaid. Aspects of this tale are further explored in the volume’s third and fourth tales, and the second and fifth tales similarly connect. Despite fantastical plots, the places are real—and all over the place: Ghana, Senegal, Scotland, the California coast, etc. Despite this, the stories fail as world stories, as gender and cultural stereotypes abound: the Norse king’s masculinist insistence on bearing a son prompts him to mistreat his wife; the Cherokee Indian who comes to Orkney to woo a princess arrives with a troupe of dancing bears and leaves in a magic canoe; and a Sikh prince from India wears a “fat orange turban” and a cashmere rug. In the end, compulsory heterosexuality reigns, and even the women who seem to have options don’t. The watercolor images will help readers imagine the unimaginable plots, but they add little to the stories.
A disappointing affirmation of the status quo. (Fantasy. 9-12)