The Mermaid's Purse

illus. by Patricia Polacco. 48p. Putnam. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399166921.
Gr 2–4—Polacco tells a story based on her grandmother's early years in 19th-century Michigan. Stella was born in a Mermaid's Purse, otherwise known as a caul, and that meant that she was born blessed. More than anything, Stella loves books. She reads anytime she can and saves up all her money to buy books, too. Eventually she owns so many that her father and other men from town build her a library, and she names it the Mermaid's Purse. Stella's collection soon comes in handy as she uses it to help a farmer save his sheep from dying of bloat, keep her future husband from drowning, and prevent another farmer from losing his water rights. However, her books can't stop the Mermaid's Purse from being destroyed by a tornado. Stella grows despondent, and it isn't until farmers from all over the county find her books scattered around and return them to her that she is finally happy again. The art is done in the muted tones and style that are without a doubt Polacco's trademark. This is the type of family tale that the author/illustrator is known for. The story is lovely, with the message that books can teach anyone about everything. The title also features pictures and tidbits about the real Stella's life after the narrative is over, which is a nice touch.
VERDICT A terrific library read-aloud that is also suitable for one-on-one and small group sharing.

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