cover image The Selkie Girl

The Selkie Girl

Susan Cooper, Robertson Cooper. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-50390-0

The illustrious author and artist have created a haunting version of the Scottish folktale about the selkie. Newbery Medalist Cooper tells the story of a man who falls in love with a woman; she becomes a seal as she swims away. A year later, he steals her sealskin so she cannot leave and makes her his bride. The tale focuses on the longing of the selkie, Mairi, a ""wild creature'' who goes ``back to the wild, in the end.'' When Mairi accidentally finds out where her husband hid her sealskin, she tells her children she must leave them because she also has children in the sea. Her daughter understands, saying, ``You must go to them. It's their turn.'' The lyrical text weaves a tale of sweeping dimension; this is storytelling at its finest. Particularly lovely are Hutton's sensitive and muted watercolors, which successfully capture the mood evoked by the book's opening and closing sentence: ``The islands rise green out of the sea, where the waves roam over the grey rocks, and strange things may happen there.'' (4-8)