Currently Reading: The Tail of Emily Windsnap

The Tail of Emily Windsnap (Emily Windsnap, #1)Actually, all I really wanted to think about was the silkiness of the water as I sliced through it—before everything went wrong. I could still hear its silence pulling me, playing with me as though we shared a secret. But every time I started to lose myself to the feeling of its creamy warmth on my skin, Mandy’s face broke into the picture, glaring at me.

A couple of times, I almost fell asleep. Then I suddenly would wake up after drifting into panicky half-dreams—of me inside a huge tank, the class all around me. They were pointing, staring, chanting: “Freak! Freak!”

I could never go into the water again!

But the questions wouldn’t leave me alone. What had happened to me in there? Would it happen again?

Author: Liz Kessler

From Goodreads: For as long as she can remember, twelve-year-old Emily Windsnap has lived on a boat. And, oddly enough, for just as long, her mother has seemed anxious to keep her away from the water. But when Mom finally agrees to let her take swimming lessons, Emily makes a startling discovery—about her own identity, the mysterious father she's never met, and the thrilling possibilities and perils shimmering deep below the water's surface. With a sure sense of suspense and richly imaginative details, first-time author Liz Kessler lures us into a glorious undersea world where mermaids study shipwrecks at school and Neptune rules with an iron trident—an enchanting fantasy about family secrets, loyal friendship, and the convention-defying power of love.

Notes: As I believe I mentioned recently, I’m on something of a quest for an intelligent, well-written, captivating mermaid novel. Yes, this is probably absurd, but I've retained something of my childhood fascination with undersea life. I’ve yet to find the mythical object, though The Tail of Emily Windsnap was the best shell I've turned over so far.

Part of its success is its target age range. A middle grade story doesn’t have to make the scientific sense that even a young adult novel generally must, and from A Wrinkle in Time through The Giver, middle grade novels have often left the screws loose on their internal logic. In the case of Emily Windsnap, any reader with a remotely adult mind will find themselves thinking, “A bird may love a fish, but how would they conceive a daughter?” and this will go on niggling right through the suspiciously simplistic arguments at the climax about “being punished merely for loving.”

Be that as it may, Emily Windsnap is at least a well constructed story with an enthusiastic, likable young voice and amusing characters. For the reader at the right age, Emily should offer a quick, pleasant, relatable read; most middle schoolers can sympathize with her fear of being called a freak, and many a young girl dreams of being a mermaid. I did, and chances are I’d have loved this story at about age seven.

As it is, I enjoyed it well enough. Mermaid books nearly always seem to fail in the worldbuilding department, but Kessler kept up an appealing, if sometimes cutesy, depiction of underwater life. The little bits of wordplay were fun, and creepy Mr. Beeston, hilarious Mystic Millie, and loyal, lovable Shona kept the story lively and interesting.

Unlike A Wrinkle in Time and The Giver, however, Emily Windsnap does not have the depth to transcend its age category—but I can hardly reproach it much for that. It succeeds perfectly well at what it was designed to do. It’s a quirky, easygoing little story for the very young. As such, it's one of the stronger mermaid offerings available.


  1. Kind of disappointing then that this seems to be the best the mermaid genre can offer. Maybe shoot for sirens instead. :)

    ...the suspiciously simplistic arguments at the climax about “being punished merely for loving.”

    Hmmm, yes, we seem to have mastered the fine art of using "love" to trump every other virtue or moral in life & to use "love" as an excuse to indulge our every whim & disordered desires. But I digress.

    Anyway, it sounds like a cute read. Very good review. I've added it to my Amazon wish list. (I seem to say that a lot.)

    1. You're absolutely right. The arguments at the end sounded like they were ported straight over from a desperately inane internet manifesto on gay marriage. Of course, if such things weren't everywhere right now, I probably would've read right through that scene without difficulty. :)

      The book is a cute read, though. The wordplay is funny and a little Potteresque in places, and I appreciated Kessler making an effort to make the underwater world interesting.

      As for sirens, unfortunately they don't interest me nearly as much as mermaids. Although I do want to read Tricia Rayburn's series, and the only thing stopping me thus far is that the library doesn't have it. Maybe when I get a proper book buying budget again. ;)

    2. To be honest, I still need to finish Rayburn's series. I think when the third book first came out the Kindle edition was way overpriced. Anyway, I just sent a sample to my Kindle & will try to start reading it here soon.

  2. Skimming through books on Audible I just realized what might be more elusive than an "intelligent, well-written, captivating mermaid novel." Intelligent, well-written, captivating, not too theologically wacko angel novels.

    1. HA. I have thus far managed to avoid all angel novels. I think I'd like to keep that going. :P

    2. Speaking of angels, I just saw two books on one of the feeds I watch for cheap & free books. Vampire Angels. Oh my! Words just kind of fail.

  3. For an utterly lovely tale, visually beautiful film, and enchanting music (which is Scottish/Irish lullaby) that provides something akin to the mermaid story you seek, you must watch Sayles's "The Secret of Roan Inish":


    I've not yet read the original tale that the film is based on, called "The Secret of Ron Mor Skerry," by Rosalie Fry (it's a bit pricey), but you can get used copies of the story in a reprint made after the film came out:


    Please do watch the film soon (and get ahold of a copy of the book, if possible, through a public library). I'm so sure that you will love it, that it will satisfy your search for a great mermaid-like tale, that you will want to buy the film soundtrack, and add it to your top 100 films list. :o)

    1. The Secret of Roan Inish... cool. Thanks! I've never heard of it, but that's an awfully high recommendation. Guess I'd better look into it! :)

  4. And here is the movie trailer for "The Secret of Roan Inish":



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