Book Of The Month – The Girl Who Thought Her Mother Was A Mermaid – Tania Unsworth

One of the joys of blogging is that occasionally you stumble across a gem of a book. Perhaps its a spur of the moment purchase at the local bookshop or maybe a book just being returned to the library shelf. Other times that gem of a book stumbles across you. That is what happened with The Girl Who Thought Her Mother Was A Mermaid. One day, the book literally dropped through my letter box unannounced.

If I’m truly honest, I picked it up, had a browse and added to my To Be Read pile. In my mind it was going to form part of my Making A Splash blog from a few weeks ago. It didn’t look or sound like my normal type of book, but it would surely fit in with a selection of books about water. So, after a few weeks, I picked up the book and began to read. Thank goodness I did – it offered so much more than I expected!

The story centres around Stella whose family has been in turmoil since her mother died. Now her grandmother struggles to remember anything and she hasn’t really got a friend in school. That is until Cam arrives. For a while it seems like Stella’s life is on the up, until two incidents set in motion a chain of events that seal Stella’s destiny. Firstly, Stella begins to believe that her mother was a mermaid and secondly Cam unexpectedly moves house.

“Tania Unsworth has created a bittersweet inter-generational relationship”

With a head full of questions, Stella runs away determined to find out who her mother really was. Before long , she ends up in Crystal Cove where she stumbles upon a run-down aquarium with a mermaid show. It is there that the secrets of Stella’s past (and present) begin to reveal themselves.

This is a story built around relationships. Stella and Cam’s friendship is delicately balanced, allowing both girls to play vital roles in the story. The relationship between Stella and her increasingly distant father is a mirror for the interplay seen in grieving families. Yet it is Stella’s bond with her grandmother which will stick in my memory. Her grandmother, in Stella’s words, time-travels. She cannot remember everything and flicks between memories, some real; others not. In these characters, Tania Unsworth has created a bittersweet inter-generational relationship.

“beautiful descriptions weave their way through the narration”

Then there is the narrative style. On the surface, this is a quick and easy read. There is nothing complicated about the language. However, there is a lyrical feel to the book. Beautiful descriptions weave their way through the narration, bringing the characters, plots and landscapes to life. Testament to this is the fact that I almost immediately was using extracts within my lessons. Of course, the children were hooked and requesting that they could borrow my copy.

The language does make the book accessible to a range of children. In my mind this was going to present a problem when certain themes emerged. Thankfully my fears were eased as I saw how sensitively Unsworth deals with complex and mature issues. As with the grandmother’s dementia, abusive relationships and bereavement are presented in a gentle manner, which doesn’t detract from the seriousness of the issues.

“it is another gem from the team at Zephyr”

I honestly surprised myself with this book. I felt myself being sucked into the adventure, not knowing how things would end. More importantly, I felt for the characters – I could believe in them and their troubles. I cannot be more grateful that this book stumbled across me; it is another gem from the team at Zephyr.

  • Age Recommendation: 8 +
  • Pages: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Zephyr
  • ISBN: 9781788541671

    **Thanks to Zephyr for unexpectedly providing a review copy, so glad you did!**

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