For fans of The Hazel Wood, this middle grade novel takes the dark stuff of fairytales and crafts it into a powerful story of friendship and light.
"Once I picked the book up, I didn’t set it down until I finished it with tears in my eyes. . ." —The New York Times Book Review
Every evening Lampie, the lighthouse keeper's daughter, must light a lantern to warn ships away from the rocks, but one stormy night disaster strikes. The lantern is not lit, a ship is wrecked, and someone must pay.
To work off her debt, Lampie is banished to the Admiral's lonely house, where a monster is rumored to live. The terrors inside the house aren't quite what she thought they would be--they are even stranger. After Lampie saves the life of the neglected, deformed son of the admiral, a boy she calls Fish, they form a close bond. Soon they are pulled into a fairytale adventure swimming with mermaids, pirates, and misfits. Lampie will discover the courage to fight for friendship, knowledge, and the freedom to be different.
With this haunting story, author-illustrator Schaap weaves together elements remniscent of Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" and Burnett's The Secret Garden to construct a gothic fable. After a shipwreck occurs during a storm, 11-year-old lighthouse keeper's daughter Emilia Waterman, called Lampie, is taken from her father, who is blamed for the wreck. Inhabited by a bare-bones staff serving an absentee admiral, her bleak new cliffside home, the Black House, is reportedly haunted by a monster. Lampie eventually discovers that the "monster" is Edward, the reclusive, abrasive son of the admiral, who has scaly skin and a fish's tail. Over time, she befriends the boy she nicknames Fish, who's determined to learn how to walk on land despite his "deformity." After a visit to a traveling fair reveals clues about Fish's parentage, Lampie and her new friend wind up in an escapade that will change their lives. Formal language and multiple perspectives result in a narrative distance that, while appropriate for a fairy tale, betrays a lack of focus as the story develops. The inclusion of an era-appropriate "freak show," though delicately handled, may still disturb some readers. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8 12.