Fish Girl

NAPOLI, Donna Jo & . illus. by David Wiesner. 192p. ebook available. Clarion. Mar. 2017. Tr $25. ISBN 9780544815124; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9780547483931.
Gr 4–8—Children's literature powerhouses Napoli and Wiesner have teamed up to create a striking graphic novel. On the boardwalk, visitors flock to Ocean Wonders, a tank filled with a shark, fish, an octopus, and a turtle—and the star attraction, the elusive Fish Girl. Though kids stare into the water, they catch only a glimpse of the mermaid's fin or arm. Fish Girl's owner and protector, who calls himself Neptune, exerts a Svengali-like control over his mute ward, claiming that he once ruled the ocean and forbidding her from fully revealing herself. But when the young mermaid befriends a girl who visits the tank, she begins to question Neptune's stories about her past and to dream about escaping. Employing inspired composition, a masterly sense of perspective and angles, and a palette dominated by vivid blues and greens, Wiesner submerges readers in Fish Girl's world, conveying both her affection for her home and her companion Octopus and her desire to know life outside her constricting tank. The realistic images and controlled linework hint at a sense of magic below the surface. However, the narrative may stymie readers. Many questions go unanswered (for instance, how does Fish Girl trade her scales and fins for legs when she leaves the water?), and the book ends on a somewhat ambiguous note.
VERDICT A gorgeous though cryptic offering; hand this modern-day fairy tale to those who appreciate folklore-influenced fiction.

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