Mermaid by Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson

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Mermaid by Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: Luka does not know how to swim until he meets Sylvia, who happens to be a mermaid. Join them in a delicate, but disjointed book about imagination and diversity.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 32 Date: April 2015
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9781407145938

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Bringing important issues such as race and disability to a child’s attention is a vital thing for any parent to do if they want their child to understand the world better. Why does that person look different and should I be scared? The answer is obviously no, but how is a child supposed to know this? Books are a great way of explaining diversity without making the lesson too preachy or obvious. Perhaps a story about a mermaid who, when out of the water, is in a wheelchair?

Luka lives by the sea, but does not like to swim, that is until a young girl offers to help. This is no ordinary girl, Sylvia is a mermaid! Together the two of them go on an adventure under the waves until the sun begins to set. In school the next day, Luka is in for a big surprise when a new girl starts at school – it’s Sylvia and only he knows her secret.

It feels hard to be overly critical of a book that approaches the subject of disability in as sensitive a way as Mermaid, but is not the diversity angle of the book that falls flat, but the story as a whole. The positives first though. The illustrations by Laura Ellen Anderson are luscious and particularly spectacular in the scenes that take place under the sea. The use of colour works really well and each of the 32 pages of the book are packed with things to look at.

The book also handles Sylvia being in a wheelchair very well to. Author Cerrie Burnell is able to write from experience having been born with a missing hand and now being a popular children’s TV presenter. The fact that Sylvia is in a wheelchair is actually shown as not being that big a deal. When arriving at her new school Luka soon jumps in to tell all the kids that she is actually a mermaid. Most children brought up watching the likes of Something Special are not frightened of disability, but can be curious. Treating everyone the same is the best way to approach new people and this is a great lesson for any 3-5 year old.

So, what is wrong with the book? Mermaid may have its heart in the right place, but it seemed to lack a coherent plot. The meeting of Luka and Sylvia at the beach leads to a fantasy journey under the ocean in which not a huge amount happens. Later, at school you are just given a glimpse into Sylvia’s first day, but then the book stops. So essentially you have a story about a young boy’s imagination and little else. I would have liked a few more pages to discover whether Sylvia was actually a mermaid, instead you get a story that feels sweet, but does not actually go anywhere.

The best element of Mermaid is that it treats disability as if it is nothing out of the ordinary. It is better to make something commonplace rather than trying to highlight it as something that is other than the norm. The issue with the book is that the casual style also informs the story making it a very lightweight, even in the flyaway world of children’s literature.

Milly and the Mermaids by Maudie Smith and Antonia Woodward is a stronger book about Mermaids, or you can check out the earlier book by Burnell and Anderson Snowflakes by Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson

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Buy Mermaid by Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Mermaid by Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Mermaid by Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Mermaid by Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson at


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