cover image Sea Sirens

Sea Sirens

Amy Chu, illus. by Janet K. Lee. Viking, $20.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-451-48017-0

Middle-schooler Trot lives in Huntington Beach, Calif., and loves nothing more than surfing with her cat, Cap’n Bill, while her grandfather fishes nearby. Trot’s youth and Grandpa’s dementia put the pair in the position of watching out for each other while Trot’s mother is at work. When a massive wave knocks Trot and Bill deep underwater, they become accidental heroes of a skirmish between a group of Sea Sirens (merfolk) and large, talking Serpents. Given abilities to breathe and communicate underwater, Trot and Bill are invited to visit the Sea Siren kingdom where wonders await. While the story is based on The Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum, it is impossible to avoid another, favorable comparison to a different fantasy world, that of Little Nemo in Slumberland, which seems a clear inspiration to both the fanciful story and art. Bright, densely detailed illustrations by Lee (Return of the Dapper Men) present the undersea world as a confectionary delight for the eyes, populated by strange characters of various species, marvelous costumes, and mysterious architecture, while Chu (Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death) keeps the tone light, the stakes low, and the charm high. Sweet without being saccharine, this slight magical adventure feels timeless, optimistic, and fun. Ages 8–12. [em](June) [/em]