To Catch a Mermaid by Suzanne Selfors, illustrated by Catia Chien, 2007
In an instant, Boom and his sister Mertyle lost their mother when a twister touched down in their front yard and swept her away. No trace of her was ever found causing their father to quit work and retreat to the attic in fear of the tornado's return.
Mertyle is certain that her mother will return so she stays home from school every day to wait for her. The family is barely functioning. Short on funds, Boom brings home a bucket of seafood rejects for their for dinner. Beneath the seaweed and fish, he and Mertyle find a merbaby and, soon, a world of trouble when Mertlye is stricken with a mysterious illness. Catia Chien's humorous illustrations underline that this merbaby is not the Garth Williams cherub from my childhood storybook nor is it a Disney baby Ariel. Rather, it is a growling, stinky, burping, razor-fanged creature that is a danger in many ways.
This is a light-hearted, middle grade reader but below the fantasy the story addresses the painful loss of a parent. Boom is a character to admire as he pushes forward when others in his family are paralyzed by their loss. I give Selfors great credit for the direction of the story. She surprised me with the ending which made the story richer and more meaningful.
All in all, a fun and very satisfying read.