The Little Mermaid

Little, Brown. Nov. 2020. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316440318.
PreS-Gr 3–In this modern adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s, “The Little Mermaid,” Pinkney uses his signature pencil and watercolor technique, coupled with inspiration from African mythologies of water spirits, to depict an empowering reimagining of this beloved tale. Readers are plunged far below the sea to a simultaneously dark and luminous watery world, lush with plants and lurking sea creatures. Melody is the youngest of the Sea King’s four daughters and the family is depicted as merfolk of color. She yearns for exploration beyond the sea and to befriend the girl she spies on the distant, unfamiliar shore. Eliminated is the traditional plot line of the mermaid desiring the love of a prince, making this adaptation not only approachable for young readers, but a celebration of a strong, independent girl. However, in line with the classic plot trajectory, Melody sacrifices her most precious gift, her voice, to the evil Sea Witch in exchange for legs to experience the world beyond the sea. Ashore, Melody befriends the girl she saw from afar, Zion, also a girl of color similar in age to Melody, who tells her “you should have never given up your voice . . . for anything.” After the leisurely climb to Melody’s journey ashore and pivotal realization that her voice is a powerful gift, the inevitable good versus evil battle that erupts between the Sea Witch and the Sea King, calling Melody back to the sea, may feel somewhat rushed to conclusion.
VERDICT An essential and empowering adaptation, for all ages, and every collection.

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