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.
Pre-teen girls will likely bite at this novel's tempting bait, offered in the opening lines: "Can you keep a secret? Everybody has secrets, of course, but mine's different." Emily Windsnap, who narrates, is half-mermaid, as she discovers, inconveniently, in her seventh-grade swim class. Despite never having had a lesson, she takes to the water like, well, a fish. Before Emily's first kick turn she feels her legs melding into a tail. She hops out of the water before she can be branded a freak, but she's hooked. At night, she sneaks from the boat where she lives with her mother to explore the undersea world, and unravel the mystery of her genetics which involves her long-missing, never-discussed father. Newcomer Kessler anchors her fantasy in the nitty-gritty of adolescence: Emily bests a bully who comes close to guessing her secret, and she finds a best friend in Shona, a mermaid she meets during her nightly swims. Coincidences drive the plot Shona has recently studied illegal mermaid-human marriages in school; a creepy lightkeeper drops a key that unlocks a treasure chest containing a file spelling out the entire backstory. The jewel-toned jacket art and ink-wash illustrations sprinkled throughout add girlish charm to an imaginative story. Ages 8-12.