Soraya and the Mermaid

Reycraft. Nov. 2020. 120p. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781478868156.
Gr 2-5–Soraya is a creative girl who marches to the beat of her own drum. She feels isolated from her fourth grade classmates and is most comfortable in the world of her comic book hero, Nimbla Moony. A class trip to the aquarium yields an unexpected surprise when Soraya is approached by a young mermaid who needs help returning to the sea. How can Soraya get Estelle safely out of the building to the nearby bay without detection? Does she have what it takes to be brave like her hero? Alikhan offers a fresh take on contemporary fantasy for the chapter book set with this diverse cast of characters, perfect for kids who struggle with fitting in with their peers. Soraya finally connects with a friend who accepts her quirks. Estelle can certainly relate, since her STEM-focused desire to design underwater buildings is atypical mermaid behavior. By the book’s end, Soraya starts to learn to love herself and to trust others, as she and Estelle must accept help from various sea creatures to pull off the escape. This is an appropriate fit for the intended audience. The text is large, the margins wide, the vocabulary manageable, and the plot and conflict are straightforward. Large full-color illustrations can be seen every couple of pages—Soraya is depicted with light skin and dark hair, Estelle has dark brown skin and curly black hair, and the rest of the cast are drawn with a range of skin tones. Colorful boarders bedazzle every page, helping readers to keep up interest. A comic book section at the end illustrates Soraya’s imaginings of what happens to Estelle upon returning to the sea, demonstrating to readers that our hero has found her niche in creating her own comics. Perfect for fans of Debbie Dadey’s “Mermaid Tales,” Abby Hanlon’s “Dory Fantasmagory,” and Wanda Coven’s “Heidi Heckelbeck” series.
VERDICT An easy choice for mermaid lovers and any transitional chapter book reader who likes their fiction laced with a bit of magic.

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