Sunday, October 6, 2013

REVIEW: The Tail of Emily Windsnap

This month, the kids read The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler. I'll admit, this one was far more popular with the girls than the boys. Still, everyone had fun sharing what they thought would be the best and worst things about being a mermaid or merman. Ned* was even brave enough to admit to the group that he thought the book was "pretty good."

Emily Windsnap and her mother live on a boat and Emily has wanted swim lessons for years. Maybe it's her mother's inexplicable fear of the water, maybe it's something else, but Emily is never allowed the lessons. One day, she finally prevails. After her first foray into the pool, though, Emily begs to quit the lessons. The worst thing in the world would be for her classmates to discover what she has just learned: Emily is a weirdo, a freak... a mermaid. She may be afraid for her classmates to learn her secret, but that doesn't stop her from sneaking out to test her new tail and fins at night. She befriends another mermaid and finds herself intrigued by the world beneath the surface of the water. Finally, someplace she feels at home!

A quick read, The Tail of Emily Windsnap is a fun book with twists that adults will likely see coming. However, my daughters and their friends figured out most of those twists right alongside Emily, so the book hits it target audience at the right level. With Emily having one human and one merfolk parent, the theme of love knowing no boundaries is central, but it's not necessarily a slippery slope. There are families of all sorts in our book club, so I chose to keep that part of the discussion focused on the general idea that love is love.  Emily's story contains plenty of other themes to concentrate on which are far more pertinent to kids' everyday concerns, like what makes a good friend, the difference between having one best friend versus several good friends, and whether or not disobeying a parent (or other adults) can be anything other than foolish.

Hennepin County Library in Minneapolis, MN has a discussion guide with some thought-provoking questions as well as a bunch of fun ones. Orion Books provides this teacher's guide, which has interdisciplinary lessons and activities, many of which can be easily adapted to suit smaller groups of kids.

There are three more books in the series. Though I haven't read them yet, Emma is looking forward to getting them.

And oh, yeah... our post-discussion snack spread included sushi, Swedish Fish and doughnuts with extra sugar.

*a pseudonym

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