An old fisher recalls almost catching a mermaid in this debut picture book.

The story begins by describing hidden creeks that run beneath Knoxville, Tennessee. The unnamed narrator describes seeing a mermaid in one of the creeks, snatching away bread the narrator was feeding to a school of carp. Later, the narrator, revealed as a grandparent regaling children with the tale, recalls almost catching a mermaid during a flood. The mermaid escapes and, in a beautiful final image, is reunited with her nursing mother and baby sibling. Deal’s otherworldly ink-and-paint illustrations give a surreal aspect to even mundane subjects, such as the pollution featured prominently in the images of these creeks. Scott’s text combines repeated rhyming phrases after sections of nonrhyming poetic text that describe “green-eyed carp” and “halls of moss and snakeskin.” Both the text and imagery play up the mysterious beauty of these forgotten places, but the story’s overall intention is elusive. The garbage in the river is a clear problem, but it’s never mentioned by the narrator, and the fisher is punished for trying to catch the mermaid when she bites him, but otherwise the story passes no judgment.

This book uses intriguing imagery to build a magical world, but it never settles on a clear message.

Pub Date: today


Page Count: 32

Publisher: Part Flamingo Press

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2020

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