Hmm. I have mixed emotions about this book, truly. On the one hand, The Tail of Emily Windsnap is one of the more imaginative tales I have ever read. Written by Liz Kessler and published by Candlewick Press, this is the story of a young girl who makes a discovery about herself the moment she is first immersed in water — which happens to be in her seventh grade gym class. Upon being immersed in water she felt a strange sensation in her legs, as if they were being joined together. In actuality, they were! As it turns out, Emily is part mermaid.
(I normally wouldn’t give a spoiler but in this particular case, if you want to make a good decision about whether or not to hand this book over to your teen, you should know the facts. Just don’t have your teen read my review and all will be well. – ha)
This book is journey of self-discovery for Emily as she uncovers the secrets of her mysterious past. Her mother is human but her father is a mermaid and Emily inherited the mermaid gene from him. The reason it took so long for her to discover this was because love and marriage between humans and mermaids is strictly forbidden in the mermaid kingdom. Neptune, the ruler of the merpeople had strictly forbidden intermarriage between the two species but Emily’s mother and father had disobeyed his orders over twelve years prior to the beginning of the story. The result of their romance was, of course, Emily. Once Neptune discovered this relationship he had Emily’s father put into the mermaid prison. Emily’s mother had her memory wiped after her merman husband was imprisoned and does not remember her past until Emily makes the discovery and helps nurse her mother’s memory back to health.
Again, on the whole, I thought the book was well-told, interesting, captivating, etc. I loved Kessler’s use of sea lore in relation to sirens who were used to sink ships. I loved her descriptions of mermaid history. I liked the character of Emily.
My chief reservation and caution that I’d give any potential reader is that Kessler makes the statement – completely in relation to mermaids and humans marrying – that no law should make it illegal for people who love each other to marry. Take it or leave it. That argument exists in the book. I would venture a guess to say that any teen reading this book would not recognize the current political debate raging in America over who is allowed to marry and who is not when reading about Emily Windsnap’s parents. It stood out to me as an adult reader but my twelve year old self would have been sure to miss it. I’m just letting you know it’s there.
The last thing is that there is a reference to Emily’s babysitter who is a psychic and is mentioned to have brought tarot cards over when babysitting. She plays an extremely minor role in the book and is not a key character. She appears to be more heavily involved in the end of the story and in no way is her mysticism mentioned in the later half of the book (that I caught on to).
This book is imaginative and creative. Any reader would need to decide their own comfort levels in picking up this book. For my part, I recognized the potential political arguments that Kessler was raising and still enjoyed the book for the adventure and mystery of the sea. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl, but the idea of mermaids has always been fascinating to me. I loved Disney’s Little Mermaid and this book rather fell into the same category as far as my enjoyment levels were concerned.
If you’ve read it and have an opinion to share on it, feel free to do so. At the most I’d say, as parents, it’s a good idea to be aware of the themes in the book and topics that your son or daughter might question you about. If you discover that you love Emily Windsnap, you’ll be delighted to note that there is a sequel entitled Emily Windsnap and the Secret from the Deep. I haven’t read that one so if you have – please DO leave a note about it and tell me what you thought!
Carrie comes by her book obsession honestly, having descended from a long line of bibliophiles. She blogs about books regularly at Reading to Know.
My ten-year old daughter loves this book, as well as the sequels. She has been obsessed with mermaids since she was tiny (it all started with The Little Mermaid), and this book did not disappoint. She did not pick up on the political issues at all, but I did and we’ve talked about some of the characters in the book. Overall, though, we think this book is wonderful.
Monica Brand | Paper Bridges says
a neighbor just yesterday gave us this series of books. there is a third book too, I believe.
thanks for the heads up regarding the marriage issue. I could definitely use that as a way to talk to my daughter about how some pple in the world don’t agree with biblical marriage. personally, I love it when books touch on real life issues.
now about those tarot cards… grrrr. mama lion monica NOT pleased. *sigh*
Thank you for the heads-up about those potential issues in the story!
I have read the whole series of Emily Windsnap books and love them! The issues concerning the tarot cards are not a big deal, they only make the book more mysterious and fun.I had picked up on the marriage issues when I read the first book, and I was 12 at the time.
Lili Stith says
Dear Liz Kessler,
I love this book, I even did it for one of my school book reports, I read it to my sister and my mom and they read some to me.
My favorite part was at the end when she shows everyone that is in her swimming class that she is a mermaid and when she looks across the room there is thirty open mouths!
Although the part I did not like about this book was at some points I didn’t know when she was in her human form or her mermaid form, but I still thought that it is definetely one of my favorite books that I have read in a long time though.
I learned from it that you shouldn’t be afraid to show who you really are and that you should be happy with yourself just the way you are and it dosn’t matter what other people think of you and just be yourself.
I also want to know why you wanted to write this kind of book and what did you like most about writing this book.
My name is Lili, I am in fourth grade and I loved your book!!!!!!!! 🙂
well i live in mexico and i’m learning english well i have 6 years learnig but sometimes i don’t understand what is the book talkin about
soon i’m going to buy the others book of emily windsnap
we hav been readin this book
in class and weneva there is somthin really excitin that happens we all like jump out of our seats coz its like soooo good and if i had 2 rate this book i would sooo give it a 5 out of 5 definatley!♥♥♥♥♥ i havent gotton on to readin the second and third yet but im sure they r gona b gr8!☺☻
Sally Hall says
This book rocks
Sally Hall says
I have read the first book and it is a really, really, really good book. You rock!!!
abeer ali says
my 8 years old daughter loved this story she told me about it and i read it it ia realy interstingand iwill give it to my anther daughter she is 7 years old in my openion it is the best fantasy story ever
I remember reading this when I was in the 4th grade…Probably my favorite mermaid story besides the Little Mermaid!! I finished re-reading this tonight and it’s still one of my favorites after 7 years! <3 <3
Hahaha, I've only read the first two books of the series, but I intend on finishing them this summer before I start my summer reading for school!
My name is Ramanika.
I loved the books of ‘Emily Windsnap’
I have All the parts
When I read ur book I felt it very intresting
I could not drop the book down
I read all the parts
They are really intresting
I use to not like mermaids
But when I read that book I started loving mermaids
I love the book I read it in like a day!
Kristine Shempp says
Thank you so much for this concise review! My daughter was interested in the book because she loves to read and some of her friends were reading it. I usually try to pre-read books that I’m unfamilliar with, but couldn’t get a hold of this one through our library. I really appreciate that you’ve done this for me! I’ve decided that she can read it in a few years when her thinking is on a more rhetorical level and she can process the mysterical, polytheistic and social issues from a better equipped mindset. Thank you so much for helping us out!
Sidra & Lauren says
We loved the book “The Tail of emily Windsnap”
In 2003,when the book came out we were fiest born
We have beeen obsessed with mermaids!
We watched “Disney’s,Little Mermaid” and “H2O:Just Add Water”
Both wonderful shows