cover image Fish Girl

Fish Girl

Donna Jo Napoli and David Wiesner, illus. by David Wiesner. Clarion, $17.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-547-48393-1

In Wiesner and Napoli’s unsettling tale of self-discovery, a young mermaid who stars in a boardwalk aquarium show begins to question her circumstances after a human girl offers her friendship. Though she can’t talk and has never been outside, Mira—as her new friend Livia christens her—slowly realizes that the show’s domineering owner, Neptune, may not be as benevolent or godlike as he seems. “The scientists will take you to a lab,” he threatens, warning her against being seen. “They’ll cut you open.” With Livia’s encouragement, help from her fellow sea creatures, and her own extra-human powers, Mira delivers herself from her captor. Napoli (Dark Shimmer) and Wiesner (Mr. Wuffles!) create a plot that crackles, and Wiesner’s graceful, classically proportioned artwork makes the story’s fantastical elements clear and believable. But Neptune’s catalog of classic psychological abuse seems to belong to an edgier tale. Livia’s goofy presence counterbalances the menace (“This is a cheese and lettuce sandwich,” she explains to Mira, holding up a drawing), and Mira’s sidekick—a huge, brooding octopus—offers her the love that Neptune withholds. Ages 10–12. (Mar.)