Title: The Tail of Emily Windsnap
Author: Liz Kessler
Publisher: April 12th 2004 by Candlewick Press
Synopsis: 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.
Last year my mother noticed that I was reading crime fiction and when she came to visit brought me a set of three books she had picked up from her book club subscription thingumajig. Anyway I read one of them and it was so bad that I think reading became a bit of a traumatic experience for a while. Or maybe it was just the run up to Christmas and being mega busy and tired and everything. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I found myself in the library and I thought to myself: What I need is something light, something easy and quick to read, and more to the point enjoyable. I’m not saying that none of the books in my TBR pile are that, just that that’s what I was thinking when I was in the library. And what do you know Liz Kessler’s books popped into mind and I found the first Emily Windsnap book and I started reading straight away (well not straightaway, I had to finish work first, but straight after work).
So, call me picky, silly, whatever, but I don’t like reading US editions when I know that it’s actually a UK book. I know things are changed to fit the US market, so the first thing I had to do was get my head around that, which I did very quickly.
Emily is very likeable. The book is written in first person from her point of view and she is certainly preoccupied with the kind of things that pre-teens are: her body, her friendships and trying to fit in. She’s just started secondary school, she had a major falling out with the school bully and she’s trying and failing to make new friendships. She feels different from the others: she lives on a boat, her mum is a bit of a quirky character and Emily isn’t allowed to go near water, which is strange considering she lives on a boat.
Basically I don’t think I’m giving too much away if I say that Emily discovers she is half mermaid. This leads to a whole bunch of dilemmas for Emily such as how can she keep it secret, who is she, as well as finding new friends and trying to deal with the world above water as well as dealing with this new underwater world. When Emily visits the underwater world, I found the world building was great and I could really see what Kessler described.
One niggle was that I felt the elements that drove the plot forward were introduced a little quickly. For instance the absent grandparents are kind of mentioned in passing and then their absence is explained quickly at the end. We infer at the beginning that Emily’s father is not present, but we only get a sense of how important this is to Emily through a quick thought she has when she is a mermaid. These bits stood out, because otherwise we were really in Emily’s head and understood where she was coming from.
A last niggle was the resolution. Emily has to defend herself and makes a heartfelt speech and I wasn’t sure I bought it. Maybe in my head I had already guessed the ending which is why I wasn’t as moved by Emily’s speech, or maybe I’m just an old cynic. And then there was the ending proper. Again, maybe I’m looking at this from an adult’s point of view, but I wasn’t quite sure of the point of it.
Despite these niggles, I enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it as a fun read with some lovely imaginative twists in it. I give it:
- Liz Kessler – In praise of writing courses (bookwitch.wordpress.com)