Friday, July 11, 2008

Book Review: To Catch a Mermaid, by Suzanne Selfors

Boom Broom awoke to find his little sister, Mertyle, looking for spots.

"It's a good day for spots," she announced, examining her knobby knees with a magnifying glass. While Boom rubbed sleep from his eyes and stumbled out of bed, his sister made up another ridiculous excuse for not going to school.

Delving further into To Catch a Mermaid, the reader discovers that Boom Broom is a twelve-year-old with a lot on his shoulders. Ever since a freak twister touched down in Fairweather Island a year ago right in the Broom's front yard, and carried off Mrs. Broom, the family had never been the same. Mr. Broom refuses to leave the attic except for bathroom breaks, or to grab food prepared by the hired cook. The cook is a proud Viking descendant named Halvor who only prepars fish, fish, more fish, and thick black coffee. Mertyle, Boom's little sister, refuses to leave the house, inventing one sickness after another so she wouldn't have to go to school. Boom refuses to let the twister alter his life and tries to carry on, but he still has to deal with his family's eccentricities, and with neighborhood bully Hurley Mump and his equally bully-ish family.

Then one day, Boom is sent out to get fish for dinner. He brings home a very odd fish salvaged from a reject seafood bucket down at the docks. When he and Mertyle discover the fish is no fish, but a real, live merbaby, things start to get interesting...

For Teachers and Librarians:
The author crafts a totally believable story around a freak twister, a grieving family...and a merbaby. This book is an excellent addition to a fantasy fiction unit. A project on mythical creatures could morph from there. A study of weather patterns on islands would be an interesting extension. From there, you could expand into a comparison of weather on cold water islands vs. warm water islands. A discussion centered around not letting fear or grief get control of your life could spring from reading this book, too. There's a lot of material to be mined from this complex and vastly entertaining story. But past all of that, it's just a great story. Imagine...finding a merbaby who grants your most fervent wishes...

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Suzanne Selfors got the idea for To Catch a Mermaid while jogging one day in Vancouver, British Columbia, as she watched children play in tidepools:

I realized that one of the universal joys of childhood is discovering things. What would be a neater thing to discover in a tidepool than a baby mercreature? And so, the story was born. - Suzanne Selfors - Class of 2K7 Interview

Your kids will delight in a fantastic story about a wish-granting merbaby, and the hilarious and intense situations that follow. This is a book with something for everyone - humor, suspense, action and adventure, and mystery. Give it to your kids to try, and they won't be disappointed!

In a different direction, kids who have lost a parent, through whatever circumstances, have a lot of sorting out to do. Perhaps this book could help them work through some of those feelings. Everyone in the Broom household is trying to figure out how to live life after Mrs. Broom is swept away, but none of them is doing a very good job. Until that fateful discovery of the merbaby. Eventually, each of the Brooms learns something about themselves, and each of the Brooms finds a way to move on, and each of the Brooms learns to depend on each other. It's a roundabout way to figure things out, but this book might open some doors...

For the Kids:
A twister carries off Boom Broom's mother, right off of their front lawn. A year later, his dad won't leave the attic because he's afraid of the wind, his sister invents illnesses so she won't have to leave the house, and the family hires Halvor the Viking descendant to cook for them. But he only cooks fish, and fixes thick, black coffee. One day, when Boom is sent to get fish, he comes home with an odd one. Soon, though, he realizes it's no fish - it's a merbaby! Imagine! Finding a merbaby!  And, it grants wishes! But, Boom, his friend Winger, and his sister Mertyle get a lot more than they bargained for when things start to get hairy - literally - and Mertyle is in danger. Can Boom save his sister? Will his father ever leave the house? Are they doomed to eat fish and black coffee forever? Pick up the book and find out...

For Everyone Else:
If you love a good fish story, this is the book for you. If mythical creatures intrigue you, this is the book for you. If you're a Viking descendent, you'll learn a thing or two about Vikings and mermaids. If you're looking for an interesting twist on a twister story, this is the book for you. Really, you can't go wrong. Check it out.

Wrapping Up:
Mystery, suspense, adventure, humor, action - what's not to like? To Catch a Mermaid has all the makings of a classic.

Title: To Catch a Mermaid
Author: Suzanne Selfors
Pages: 256
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Publisher and Date: Little, Brown Young Readers, 2007
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $14.99
ISBN-10: 0316018163
ISBN-13: 978-031601866

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