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The Melancholic Mermaid by K. George



George, Kallie. The Melancholic Mermaid. Illus. Abigail Halpin. Vancouver: Simply Read Books, 2010. Print.

Upon reading a plot summary of Kallie George’s The Melancholic Mermaid, you might first wonder if you’ve read the book before. Humans befriending mermaids, outsiders uniting, and children learning that their differences make them special are all plots that have been told and retold in a variety of mediums. It will be no surprise to readers that, though Maude the two-tailed mermaid has twice the speed, twice the strength, and twice the grace, these same qualities isolate her from the other mer-children. Similarly, when two-legged Tony’s webbed hands are revealed, an unlikely friendship with Maude is inevitable.

However, while the plot and themes rarely venture outside established cliché, there are two aspects of The Melancholic Mermaid that not only make it well worth the read but push it over and above similar fare. Firstly, George’s poetic rhythms perfectly capture the lulling melancholy of the seashore. At times, she dances the line between poetry and prose, evoking the rolling tides of a calm day at the beach. Of particular note is her command of alliteration, which when well-executed, rarely fails to captivate children and draw them into a fairy tale world.

Secondly, Abigail Halpin’s illustrations are positively breathtaking. Her use of colour, space, and contrast are all wonderful to behold and do a remarkable job of highlighting the settings and mood of George’s story. While the scenes on land are depicted in vibrant purples and reds, the seashore is dominated by calm and subtle shades of blue and green. If you are the type to choose a book by its cover, The Melancholic Mermaid should most certainly be a popular choice.

The high quality of the illustrations make The Melancholic Mermaid a great book for beginning readers to grow into, and it will be ideally suited for children transitioning from picture books into shorter chapter books. While the story features both male and female protagonists, it will most likely hold a broader appeal for girls than for boys.

Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer:  Amy Paterson

Amy Paterson is a Public Services Librarian at the University of Alberta’s H. T. Coutts Education Library. She was previously the Editor of the Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management and is very happy to be involved in the Deakin Review and the delightful world of children’s literature.