The Center for Children's Books

Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Mermaids, Sirens, and Selkies: Tales of Creatures from the Deep - November 2013

Selected and annotated by Keri Carroll

Boudreau, Hélène. Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings. Jabberwocky/Sourcebooks, 2010. 224p. Gr. 6-9.
Lately, Jade’s life has been chock full of embarrassments –starting with getting her first period while at the mall and ending with her growing a tail while in the bath. Her father explains to Jade that her mother, who vanished a year ago, was actually a mermaid who became a human of her own volition. With these newfound abilities, Jade decides to uncover her mother’s whereabouts after learning that Mom was kidnapped in order to share her story with other merpeople.

Brooks, Laurie. Selkie Girl. Knopf, 2008. 262p. Gr. 7-10.
Elin Jean doesn’t understand why her father keeps her secluded from her peers on their Scottish croft and she insists that she be able to go to school with kids her age. However, when they start making fun of her for her webbed fingers and calling her “Selkie Girl,” she retreats back to her home and contents herself in isolation. During her self-imposed imprisonment, she learns that her mother was a selkie whom her father keeps locked up, forcing Elin Jean to choose between setting her mother free and joining her in the ocean or keeping both of them landlocked forever.

Cornwell, Betsy. Tides. Clarion, 2013. 336p. Gr. 7–10.
Siblings Noah and Lo have both been shipped off to spend the summer with their grandmother Gemm, who lives on a small New England island, but for very different reasons: Noah gets to participate in his dream internship under a famed marine biologist, while Lo has to struggle to overcome her bulimia without being under their father’s constant scrutiny. Upon their arrival on the island, they learn that a band of selkies lives off one of the coasts and that Gemm has been romantically involved with the mother of the selkie clan for years. Noah finds himself attracted to one of the seal girls, Mara, but when a local fisherman kidnaps one of Mara’s sisters, the peaceful relationship between the two families becomes heavily strained.

Fama, Elizabeth. Monstrous Beauty. Farrar, 2012. 304p. Gr. 8-12.
In 1872, an immortal mermaid named Syrenka abandons her life underwater to be with her human lover, a move that tragically ends with her rape and his death, cursing future generations. Fast-forward over a century, and seventeen-year-old Hester believes that if she has sex and gives birth, she will die like the matriline before her. Alternating chapters tell the stories of both Hester and Syrenka, as Hester tries to discover a way to break her family’s curse while juggling her stance on abstinence after meeting a seductive stranger.

Hapka, Catherine. Mermaids in the Backyard. Random House, 2013. 112p. Gr. 2-3.
Nine-year-old Lindy is frustrated that she has to leave behind her friends in Chicago to fulfill her parents’ desire to be seaside business owners in the quaint location of Little Hermit’s Island. Lindy’s opinion of this life-altering move drastically changes, however, when she rescues a beached mermaid during a storm. The mermaid, Sealily, and her sister, Coral, become fast friends with Lindy, even taking her beneath the sea to visit their underwater home thanks to a bit of magic, making this move one Lindy won’t soon forget.

Haworth, Danette. The Summer of Moonlight Secrets. Walker, 2010. 273p. Gr. 4-6.
Growing up in a once-famous hotel in Florida, eleven-year-old Allie Jo occasionally feels isolated from the other town kids who don’t quite get her lifestyle. Luckily for her, three tweens are staying at the hotel during the summer, including Tara, an older girl with a mysterious past. When Tara reveals to Allie Jo and the others that she’s actually a selkie and that a man pursuing her stole her pelt (making it impossible for her to return to the sea), the newly formed group of friends takes it upon themselves to retrieve Tara’s coat and set her free.

Lanagan, Margo. The Brides of Rollrock Island. Knopf, 2012. 320p. Gr. 9 up.
Misskaella, an unattractive young girl, is cruelly taunted by the inhabitants of Rollrock Island for her magical connection to the local seals and her ability to change them into human form. Desperate for affection, Misskaella creates a male companion from a seal whom she must let go after a brief tryst and realizes she must also let go of the son growing in her belly if he is to survive. Angry at the world and seeking revenge, Misskaella uses her magic to form selkie brides for the men on the island, forcing the human women to the mainland and leaving the men helplessly under the control of their beautiful brides.

Madison, Bennett. September Girls. HarperTeen, 2013. 352p. Gr. 9-12.
Sam finds himself spending the summer near the ocean in a town full of blonde beauties all looking to party, but due to his mother’s recent departure from the family, Sam is a little hesitant to openly embrace any female attention. Sam’s brother Dean, though, has no such reservations and hooks up with a girl named Kristle who’s actually aiming to score with Sam. Kristle and her fellow “sisters” turn out to be mermaids banished to the land by their father’s rage at their mother’s supposed infidelity, and the only way for these vixens to return to the sea is to sleep with a virgin, painting a large bull’s-eye on Sam’s back.

Moskowitz, Hannah. Teeth. Simon Pulse, 2013. 288p. Gr. 9–12.
Life on a small island off the coast of nowhere is pretty unbearable for Rudy—up until the day he saves a drowning boy out in the ocean whom he discovers is a fishboy named Teeth. Drawn to the bizarre creature for reasons he can’t explain, Rudy deals with his loneliness and his brother’s cystic fibrosis by latching onto Teeth, who is weighted down with a heartbreaking past. Now, Rudy must struggle with helping Teeth with his plans to free the magical Enki fish, even though these fish are what keep Rudy and his family tied to the island.

Nielson, Sheila A. Forbidden Sea. Scholastic, 2010. 296p. Gr. 6-8.
Life on the mainland is hard for Adrianne: her father recently passed away, leaving her to care for her mother and younger sister while dealing with a heartless aunt; food is becoming harder to come by; and her crush sees her as nothing more than a friend. However, when a powerful mermaid attempts to lure her into the ocean, claiming that Adrianne is superior to other humans and is to marry a prince of an underwater kingdom, the teen must decide if leaving her loved ones is a worthwhile price for her own potential happiness.

Pearce, Jackson. Fathomless. Little, 2012. 291p. Gr. 7-10.
On land, Celia wishes to distance herself from her sisters, whose strained relationship is only held together by the psychic abilities they share. Meanwhile, under the waters, Lo is receiving haunting memories that lead her to believe she once had a life on land before she lost her soul. When the two come together in an effort to save a drowning boy named Jude, Lo is tempted to steal Jude’s soul as her own and to live a life out on land, but sees the possibility of forging a different path with Celia’s help.

Porter, Sarah. Lost Voices. Harcourt, 2011. 304p. Gr. 7–10.
After Luce’s uncle attempts to rape her and leaves her abandoned on a cliff’s edge, she believes it’s the end and tumbles into the crashing waters below. Instead of succumbing to death, however, Luce is transformed into a mermaid and learns that these creatures have a deep hatred for humans, stopping at nothing to kill as many as possible by singing to passing ships and watching the passengers drown. Luce realizes that this life is not one that often ends happily, and she must struggle to sway her companions to change their ways or face their wrath.

Siegel, Mark. Sailor Twain: Or, the Mermaid in the Hudson. First Second, 2012. 400 p. Gr. 10 up.
In this graphic novel, the Hudson River is populated with mermaid temptresses in 1887, calling out to men on the sea and pulling them into the watery depths. Captain Twain is aboard one of these seafaring ships, the Lorelei, and has captured one of these elusive mermaids, nursing her back to health while slowly falling in love with her. Meanwhile, several overlapping storylines are occurring around Twain’s exploits, including his shipmate’s attempt to seduce seven women at once and the arrival of world-renowned author C.G. Beaverton, who recently wrote a book about the mythical creatures in the Hudson.