Friday, September 11, 2009

Book Review: The Tail of Emily Windsnap, by Liz Kessler

I'd never been in the ocean. I'd never even had a bath. Hey, I'm not dirty or anything-I do take a shower every night. But there isn't enough room for a bathtub on the boat, so never in my life had I been totally immersed in water.
Until the first Wednesday afternoon of seventh grade.

Emily Windsnap has a secret. She discovers it by accident, in seventh grade swim class - her first time ever immersed in water. Her legs feel like they've fused together as soon as she hits the pool, then feel normal when she hauls herself out, and it totally freaks her out. Later that night, she jumps off the pier near her houseboat to see if it happens again. And it does: she sees her legs morph into a sleek purple-and-green tail, then morph back into legs when she's out of the water. After she gets used to the idea, she's thrilled, and starts taking secret swims in the ocean to test out her newly discovered fishy self. For a while, she's the only one who knows her secret. But then she meets a new mermaid friend, Shona, who shows her a whole other world beneath the sea.

Emily begins to wonder: is this why her mother never let her in the water, even though they live on a boat? Does she know what I am? And then the lighthouse keeper, Mr. Beeston, starts acting strangely towards her, and Emily starts getting suspicious. Why is he always around? And how come her mom seems to forget things Emily had just told her, after Mr. Beeston's regular coffee-and-doughnut visits? With help from Shona, Emily starts piecing it all together, and what they finds out changes Emily's life forever.

For Teachers and Librarians:
The Tail of Emily Windsnap is an engaging and exciting story that is a perfect book around which to build a reading unit on the fantasy genre. It could also fit well into a mystery unit, as Emily works to uncover just who she is, and why Mr. Beeston is around so much, and what has happened to her mother, and why her mother seems not to recall her father (she wants to, but can't, and doesn't know why). You can also incorporate lifestyles - Emily and her mom live on a boat. Mr. Beeston lives in a lighthouse. Others live in conventional houses. What type of home do mermaids live in? A discussion on family groups and their similarities and differences could come into play as well: Emily and her mom are a family. Some kids live with two parents, some live with grandparents, or guardians, or aunts and uncles, etc. It is also a great story to use within a friendship unit - how do we meet friends? What kinds of things do friends do with or for each other? How do friends make us feel? And of course, you could use this book as a fun supplement to an ocean unit, comparing and contrasting real ocean dwellers with fantasy ones, for example. The possibilities are endless. Which will you choose for your students?

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers
The Tail of Emily Windsnap is a fun, yet meaningful book with a great focus on family - in various forms. It shows a positive friend relationship, a good way to contend with kids who aren't very nice (with a bit of fun, feel-good justice thrown in for good measure), and some great examples of problem-solving and working together toward a common goal. And besides all that good stuff, it is a fantastic story that your kids will just love. (And so will you.)

For the Kids:
Have you ever dreamed that you would discover some magical side of you that you never knew existed? Well, that's just what happens to a seventh grade girl in The Tail of Emily Windsnap: Emily has never been immersed in water, and she wonders why (since she and her mom live on a boat near the ocean). So one day, she decides to find out, and persuades her mom to let her take swimming for her seventh grade gym class. On the first day of class, Emily's legs fuse together the instant she hits the water. OMG! She's a mermaid! She manages to hide it from her classmates, then goes on secret swimming adventures when no one else is looking. It is on one of these trips that she meets another mermaid, Shona, who introduces her to the mermaid world, and an age-old mystery that goes on there. Could there be a connection between Emily's questions, and the mysterious goings-on down below? There's only one way for you to find out, and that's to find this book and get reading.

For Everyone Else:
The Tail of Emily Windsnap is a great story for kids. It's also a fun bit of escapism for adults, along with a couple of side trips down memory lane (dealing with "mean girls" at school, wondering who you are, wishing you had some secret magical "thing" to discover about yourself...oh, that last one may just be me...) Bottom line: magical book, magical story, you'll love it!

Wrapping Up:
The Tail of Emily Windsnap pulls the inquisitive mind in right from the cover art, and the story keeps that mind firmly entrenched in the fantasy: willingly suspending its disbelief, and having a grand time in the process. Read the book. Your mind will thank you.

Title: The Tail of Emily Windsnap
Author: Liz Kessler
Cover Art: Sarah Gibb
Pages: 224
Reading Level: 8-12 years, Grades 3-7
Publisher and Date: Candlewick Press, 2006
Edition: First US Paperback Edition, 2006
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $5.99
ISBN-10: 076328115
ISBN-13: 978-0763628116


  1. I have read the tail of Emily Windsnap and I absoloutley loved it and I am now getting started on the second one. I give the book a ten out of ten

  2. you should write a plot of the book

  3. This book was the best thing ever! I first didn't want to read it in the beginning, but after reading it a little bit more, I absolutely feel in love with it. GREAT JOB LIZ KESSLER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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