Emily Windsnap lives on a boat, but her mother has always been oddly anxious to keep her out of the water. It is only when Emily has her first school swimming lesson that she discovers why: as soon as she gets into the water, she grows a tail! Soon Emily discovers a glorious underwater world of fishes, coral, shipwrecks and mermaids, and, best of all, she finds a best friend! With mermaid Shona Silkfin by her side, Emily uncovers a surprising family secret and embarks on a quest to reunite her mum and dad. This enchanting fantasy deals with universal themes of family, friendship, love and justice – all handled with the lightness of touch for which Liz Kessler is so well known.
This is the fourth time I start this review because I don’t know what to say. I loved this book as a child, I found Emily relatable, I loved reading about her adventures and she was a rock for me when I was 13 because I’d quite abruptly ended up without a close circle of friends at the time. However, when I picked it back up last week, I breezed through it in a couple of hours, which would be great if Emily wasn’t tedious to read about. I’ll admit, I don’t like listening to 12/13 year olds bemoan their life and how the world is against them, so reading about it in a book wasn’t really my cup of tea. With that in mind, this book is fantastic for children because they’ll think Emily understands them, especially the ones that are loners.
Each character is unique, which make the story so much more enjoyable: Shona is a full time mermaid who finds solace in Emily; Emily’s mother, Mary P, kind of floats through her life, which isn’t to say she isn’t a good mother but she’s rather quiet when it comes to important situations; Millie is the resident psychic, she’s my favourite character to be honest because she’s just so peculiar and eccentric, she reminded me of my own mother. What’s even more interesting is we only get Emily’s POV, which is very biased, so the characters might not even be like this at all. It’s always interesting to see how a characters are perceived by other characters. One of the best examples of this here is King Neptune whom I found very annoying, and childish, which doesn’t seem consistent with the respect he’s garnered in his court. I’ll be very interested to see if this changes in later books.
All this to say that Liz Kessler’s writing in this context is spectacular, she perfectly captures the mind of a 12 year old who’s thrust into a entirely new world. Emily immediately embraces being a mermaid, without forsaking her human side and, while she doesn’t grow in this first novel, there is definitely room for that and I do hope I get to see that later.