The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story

Kokila. Aug. 2020. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781984814869.
Gr 2-4–The haenyeo are Korean women who dive for shellfish to sell or eat. They dive as deep as 20 meters without breathing apparatus. This fictional look features a grandmother and her granddaughter; they suit up with flippers and a diving belt, and practice holding their breath for a long time. The plot is simple, but the story is abundant with themes of passing down traditions, overcoming fears, and appreciation for what you have. Thoughtful illustrations are a stunning combination of digital and hand-painted art, most of which span two full pages. The women are lovingly depicted, with a familial resemblance between the two protagonists. The remarkable use of lighting allows readers to experience a full day at the ocean, from beautiful reflections of light off the seawater at stunning sunrise to a breathtaking sunset. A variety of perspectives are smartly employed to enhance the emotions on display. In one exceptional scene, the early morning sun casts long shadows resembling mermaid tails behind our characters on their walk toward the ocean.
VERDICT This expressive story is a must-have for any collection. As a bonus, the back matter provides extensive history on the haenyeo tradition, along with safety protocols and quotes from divers.

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