Mabel: A Mermaid Fable

Rowboat Watkins. Chronicle, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4521-5527-2
“What was weird about Mabel was that she had no mustache at all.” Everyone else in her family does: her father wears an impressive drooping affair, her mother and sisters sport delicate curls, “even her baby brother had a tiny baby mustache.” Mabel tries to avoid attention, hanging “seaweed falsies” awkwardly off her features, and “hiding in holes/ along the ocean floor.” When she meets a new friend with a difference—an octopus named Lucky—things improve. “What can you do with eight legs that you can’t do with seven?” Mabel asks. “Count to eight,” Lucky says. “I can teach you to count to eight!” Mabel says confidently, a seashell covering her snoot. While the fable’s trajectory seems clear from the outset, deft characterization and detailed worldbuilding by Watkins (Most Marshmallows) transcend the formulaic. Coupled with her open-hearted consideration, Mabel’s sideways glances of embarrassment and dismay offer a winning vulnerability. “Nudibranch!” is the bullying cry of Mabel’s peers, and Watkins’s artful renditions of these beautiful sea slugs, undersea corals, and other marine life provide visual fireworks that amplify the story’s compassionate message. Ages 3–5. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 12/19/2019
Release date: 03/24/2020
Genre: Children's
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