The Melancholic Mermaid – Starred Review, Quill and Quire, Jan/Feb 2011
Kallie George’s The Melancholic Mermaid, an original fairy tale written and illustrated as elegantly as a class one, is about being cast out and bullied, and the search to find someone who understands you. Initially, the story seems to hew closely to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. While Andersen’s young misfit Ariel longs to live on land, George’s young misfit Maude longs to fit in at home. Born with two tails, Maude endues endless teasing by the other merchildren, similar to the way Ariel is mocked for her obsession with the human world.
But whereas The Little Mermaid is a love story, this new fairy tale is one of friendship: Maude, captured by a fisherman and caged in the circus, befriends fellow outcast Tony, a young human boy with webbed fingers. The story of Maude and Tony’s attempts to escape from the circus (as well as their own pain) is told through both characters’ perspectives. Their peers may mock them, but the two are, at their cores, just regular children longing to fit in.
The whimsical writing style and beautiful illustrations blend perfectly. Illustrator Abigail Halpin deftly depicts all of the book’s settings, and the greatly detailed underwater images truly immerse the reader in this fantastic world. Make room next to The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling. The Melancholic Mermaid deserves a spot on every child’s bookshelf.
The Faerie Magazine – Reviewed by Jennifer Carson
Maude, a mermaid, is born with two tails and, while her parents believe she is blessed, the other merchildren think it is unfair. She is never invited to play tag-a-tail or race-around-the-shipwreck because she swims so much faster than them. Maude always feels left out and sad.
On the very same day Maude is born in the sea, a boy is born beside it. As he grows he is often teased by the village children for his webbed hands. When a circus comes to town, the ring mistress visits Tony and promises him happiness if he joins her. Soon after Maude is captured by fisherman and sold to the same circus. And so the two outcasts meet.
Tony is put in charge of feeding and taking care of Maude. He watches sadly as the mermaid cries. Soon they become tentative friends and Tony hatches a plot to escape from the cruel ring mistress and return Maude to the sea. Together they learn to trust the strange gifts they were born with and each other.
I have come to expect visually enchanting books from Simply Read Books and The Melancholic Mermaid is no exception. The whimsical watercolor illustrations are a perfect match for the well-written, lyrical prose. The Melancholic Mermaid is a perfect read-aloud for ages 4 and up, or for those who have always wished to meet a mermaid.
A mermaid is born with two tails, and a boy is born with webbed fingers in this lengthy original fairy tale. They suffer the tribulations that are the lot of the different: ridicule and shunning. Neither has friends, and they are both delivered unto a circus sideshow presided over by the shrill and heartless Ring Mistress (drawn with marcel wave and pinched mouth). The two begin to wither in their own ways, until fate draws them into close association and they discover their similarities; not just the webbed fingers but something deeper and elementally innocent binds them. George’s narrative is ethereal and formal, with a voiceover quality that invests the artwork with cinematic flow. Halpin’s curious combination of aggressively cherubic, if somewhat characterless, faces and emotive, atmospheric settings benefits from this. It says much for the writing that it carries the reader along, despite the bonding of the mermaid and the boy being foregone, their escape destined (though that’s a drawn-out affair in which the illustrations can’t corral all the action). The epilogue has an unexpected, romantic twist—heroic, adventurous, idealized—that bodes well for a sequel. (Picture book. 6-9)
ForeWord Magazine Review
When a young mermaid with two tails gets caught in a fisherman’s net and can’t get loose, she learns how harsh land-dwellers can be. Prized by her family for her unique beauty and superior strength, she’s instead exploited at a circus sideshow by her captor. At the point of ultimate despair, a young man with webbed hands who’s also been shunned comes to her rescue. Of course, love and trust blossom as Maude and Tony make their way together throughout two worlds, into neither of which they easily inhabit. This unusually smart and sensitive story doesn’t shy away from revealing the lonely facts of life for misfits. Ages four to eight. (April)
CM Magazine, 4/4 stars, Highly Recommended:
The story is divided into three chapters: the first about Maude, the second about Tony and the third about their escape. Although the outcome is somewhat predictable, the story is told beautifully, and it is impossible not to want the predictable ending. The story shares many fairy tale qualities, and Maude and Tony are the prince and princess who find each other in the end.
The Melancholic Mermaid is a unique and beautiful story of rejection, friendship, and young love. The watercolour illustrations by Abigail Halpin are stunning and complement the enchanting story perfectly. Various shades of blue and green are used to help establish the mood as the story progresses. The compelling artwork is one of the best features of this book.
The Bookbag, Reviewer Ruth Ng
Maude is a mermaid who was born with two tails. Her parents tell her it makes her special, stronger and faster, but amongst the other mermaid children it makes her an outcast. She is lonely, and she longs for a friend. Feeling sorry for herself one day she isn't paying attention and she is captured by a fisherman who sells her to a circus. On the same day that Maude was born, Tony was born in a cottage by the sea. He has webbed hands and, like Maude, is teased at school and left lonely and sad. His parents send him to live with the circus, believing he will be accepted and happy there but Tony is still lonely and he misses the sea. But then one day he is put in charge of a new attraction for the circus. A mermaid with two tails...
I really liked this story. It has a feel of a traditional fairytale to it but at the same time seems up to date, relevant to children's lives now. Both Maude and Tony experience bullying because of what they look like, and their one wish is to have a true friend. With strength and courage they do, ultimately, overcome adversity to escape. The epilogue to the book has a note that it is to be read only by those curious to know what happened next which I rather liked. We did read it, of course, and you'll be pleased to know it's all very satisfactory!
The language in the book is lovely. At the beginning the text immediately feels atmospheric and magical as we read deep in the sea, where whales drift like dark clouds above a coral kingdom, a beautiful merbaby was born with not one, but two shimmering tails. It's lovely to read aloud and the story is well-structured. The illustrations are beautiful, full of wonderful ocean colours, beautiful seaside skies and appealingly drawn characters. One image, across a double page, depicts poor Maude, sad and lonely and sitting at the bottom of the sea, her face in her hands. The sea is a wide expanse above her and, far away on the surface, there is a tiny fishing boat emphasising her distance from everyone and everything. I love the scale and space, the drama of the pictures. They compliment the text beautifully, capturing that magical fairytale feeling.
As it's relatively long for a picture book it doesn't immediately seem like something to read aloud, but I shared it with my four year old daughter and she sat, rapt throughout, for the whole story. I think if you have a patient younger child then it's a wonderfully rich story to share with them, but equally it would be a lovely story for mid-primary aged children to read by themselves.