A Comb of Wishes

Quill Tree/HarperCollins/. Feb. 2022. 272p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063043435.
Gr 5-8–Readers will be invested in the twisted tale of Black middle schooler Kela and Ophidia, an aging, vindictive mermaid. Kela is still reeling from the abrupt loss of her mother in a car accident. Her father has been drowning in his grief, and she feels emotionally frozen in place. While visiting the local coral reef in St. Rita one day, Kela grudgingly lets Lissy tag along. The girls used to be inseparable, but Kela has refused to open up to her close friend after her mother’s death. Kela feels drawn to an odd object on the coral reef and barely manages to grab the strange item to place in her bag before the tide washes everything away. Through alternating narrators, readers learn that the treasure Kela discovered is a magical comb belonging to Ophidia, who is enraged that someone has taken her comb but is bound under strict magical law to grant a wish to the person who returns the item to her. Of course, the devastated Kela desires nothing else in the world but having her mom back. Kela makes the wish for her mother’s return, but would never have guessed the terrifying consequences. Kela’s heartbreak rings true as she struggles to navigate healing over her mother’s loss. Ophidia’s backstory is equally intriguing. Characters are engaging, and the narrative will hook young bibliophiles to the end.
VERDICT A unique blend of Caribbean folklore and realistic grief with a vindictive mermaid twist. Hand to fans of mermaid tales, general fantasy lovers, and readers seeking a rare gem in the genre.

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