THE MERBABY

Teresa Bateman, Author, Patience Brewster, Illustrator , illus. by Patience Brewster. Holiday $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-1531-1

Bateman (Leprechaun Gold) and Brewster (Bear and Mrs. Duck) have created a smoothly paced, engaging story of a kindly fisherman and the baby mermaid whom he finds among the fish in his net. While Tarron does backbreaking work on the boat of his greedy brother, Josh, he dreams of the day he might buy his own ship and sail away on exotic adventures. Fishing in treacherous waters, the brothers hear the strains of a mermaid's dangerous song as she attempts to lure them to certain destruction. Tarron covers his ears and steers their ship away from the rocky island but, once safe, Josh rebukes him for not capturing the mermaid and, thus, ensuring their fortune. Later, when the merbaby appears in their net, the brothers make plans to sell her for exhibition. Tarron comes to realize that he "could no more take this merchild onto land than he could throw a human child into the sea." While Josh sleeps, Tarron begins the dangerous journey back to the mermaid. Brewster's full-spread, finely detailed artwork features windblown characters and boats set starkly against washes of pale green, blue and dark aqua, a worthy backdrop for this mythical tale. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)