The Tantalizing Tale of Grace Minnaugh

Regal House. Apr. 2020. 194p. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781947548978.
Gr 4-6–Summer doesn’t seem promising for Grace. Her dad, Walter, is always working, and Minerva, her artist mother, has been mired in depression for the last couple of years. Minerva perks up after Walter accepts a new job, but Grace just sulks when they move from landlocked Ohio to a beach house in LaToya, CA. Eventually, Grace gives in to the inevitable and goes swimming. She is surprised to discover that she enjoys it. One morning, while swimming alone, she gets sucked under the surface of the ocean. But instead of drowning, she sprouts gills and a tail. She keeps this discovery a secret from her family, sneaking out at 5:00 a.m. to test her newfound mermaid skills. She dreads the start of school but manages to make friends with Alfie, another social outcast, who is obsessed with a shipwreck off the LaToya coast that no one has found. Mermaid Grace knows exactly where it is, but how can she tell Alfie without revealing her secret? Kaltman’s premise is promising, but unfortunately, Grace starts off the story as a complaining brat who has no friends or social life and doesn’t want them anyway. She is so self-absorbed that she misses all the clues that her parents may know more about her unusual condition than she thinks. The story improves once Grace starts exploring her mermaid abilities and her attitude becomes more positive. Secondary characters don’t have much depth, except possibly Minerva, who has her own secret that will probably be obvious to the reader but that Grace completely misses.
VERDICT Grace is not as engaging or magical as the heroine of Liz Kessler’s “Emily Windsnap,” but kids looking for more mermaid stories may enjoy this. An additional purchase.

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