A solitary girl with a kinship for the sea makes a wondrous discovery in a tale of identity and belonging from master storyteller David Almond. Annie Lumsden has hair that drifts like seaweed, eyes that shine like rock pools, and thoughts that dart and dance like minnows. She lives with her artist mother by the sea, where she feels utterly at home, and has long felt apart from the other girls at school. Words and numbers on the page don’t make sense to her, and strange maladies have been springing up that the doctors can’t explain. Annie’s mother says that all things can be turned into tales, and often she tells her daughter stories about the rocks she paints like faces, or the smoke that wafts from chimneys, or who Annie’s dad is. But one day Annie asks her mother for a different tale, something with better truth in it—and on that same day a stranger in town, drawn to the sight of a girl who seems akin to the sea, helps Annie understand how special she is. Featuring Beatrice Alemagna’s expressive illustrations, this enchanting coming-of-age tale by the award-winning David Almond borrows from lore and flirts at the edges of mystery.
Annie Lumsden and her sea shanty singing mother, who "finds tales everywhere," live in a modest white house "above the jetsam line," from which parts of the village of Stupor can be glimpsed. The 13-year-old, a white only child with learning difficulties and an innate love of the ocean, describes herself poetically, with language borrowed from the sea ("I have eyes that shine like rock pools. My ears are like scallop shells") and occasionally suffers from "falls," seizure-like episodes in which she goes "far away beneath the sea." One day, Annie asks her mother to tell a new origin story for her, "something that works out the puzzle of me." The resulting tale involves the woman's meeting a mysterious man from the sea with fins and webbed feet, nine months before Annie herself is born; later that day, a traveler snaps a picture of Annie that seems to reveal the truth behind her otherworldliness. Almond's (Joe Quinn's Poltergeist) sea-swept story, enhanced by Alemagna's (Things That Go Away) eloquent, softly hued watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations, melds memorable turns of phrase with an appreciation for the unexpected: "Sometimes the best way to understand how to be human is to understand our strangeness." Ages 7 10.