The Little Mermaid dwells in an underwater kingdom with her father (the sea king or mer-king), her grandmother, and her five sisters. Her five sisters are each born one year apart. When a mermaid turns 15, she is permitted to swim to the surface to watch the world above, and when the sisters become old enough, each of them visits the upper world every year. As each of them returns, the Little Mermaid listens longingly to their various descriptions of the surface and of human beings.
This slim volume holds both Andersen's much-read tale of a mermaid who sacrifices her voice for a chance to win the human prince she loves and the story of a "true-hearted" tin soldier with one leg who falls in love with a paper ballerina. Both focus on doomed, unreciprocated love, their characters' sacrifice and loyalty resonating with spiritual meaning. Hoekstra's adept translation captures the author's signature baroque detail: "The fruit shone like gold and the flowers looked like burning flames, their stems and leaves forever flickering." Andersen's vivid imagined world and curlicued spiritual plots overshadow Crawford-White's occasional black-and-white illustrations; their style recalls the detailed images popular in adult coloring books. Ages 7 10.