The Tail of Emily Windsnap (2003) by Liz Kessler is a middle-grade children’s novel about mermaids. Our protagonist, Emily, takes swimming lessons at her new middle school, only to discover that, when fully immersed in water, she becomes a mermaid. Now, despite the fact that she lives on a boat in a beachfront town, she claims to have never before been fully immersed in water. Fascinated by her tail, she begins sneaking out of her mom’s boat at night to go swimming and meet her new mermaid friend, Shona. Driving the story is the mystery of Emily’s missing father, who allegedly left when Emily was a baby.
I love the idea of mermaids and humans falling in love together. Kessler also has some beautifully-written sentences and prose, which I’ll include below. While some of the dialogue needed work, and the adult characters were a bit one-dimensional, this playful adventure suits its target audience, and will enthrall young girls and mermaid enthusiasts alike.
“And the water looked so beautiful lying there, still and calm, as though it were holding its breath, waiting for someone to jump in and set it alive with splashes and ripples.” -p. 6
“Along the promenade, guesthouses and shops stood in a silent row of silhouettes against the night sky. It could have been a stage set. A great big full moon shone a spotlight across the sea.” -p. 15
“I picked up a goblet from one of the tables. Golden and heavy, its base was a long skirt, the cup a deep well waiting to be filled with magic.” -p. 67
“Above me, stars appeared, one by one. Soon, the night sky was packed. A fat half-moon sat among them, its other half a silhouette, semivisible as though impatient for its turn to come.” -p. 132
“I tried to cross my legs, but remembered they were a tail so I couldn’t.” -p. 194