Winner of 2 awards from Delaware Press Association:
Children’s Book, Fiction (1st place)
Book Design (1st place)
The Mermaid in Rehoboth Bay
Mermaids have fascinated children and adults for hundreds of years, and this new children’s picture book captures that allure while providing a child-pleasing story of friendship, respect for differences, and overcoming obstacles. Readers will love the highly detailed illustrations that depict two parallel story lines—one that follows a girl who lives near the sea but is afraid of the water, and one that follows a child-like mermaid who finds herself far from home.
A storm has hit coastal Delaware and washed a young mermaid named Nibi across land and into Rehoboth Bay, separating her from her family, friends, and ocean home. Terra, a girl who lives nearby, is afraid of the water, so she misses out on swimming with her friends and wading in the bay to collect shells. The two discover each other, become friends, and find a way to solve their problems together. The story’s ending is wonderfully satisfying and appropriate for young children.
When author Nancy Sakaduski and illustrator Marcella Harte collaborated on the project, they agreed they wanted to create a book that children and their parents would enjoy and want to read again and again. “I know what it’s like to have to reread a favorite book a thousand times,” says Sakaduski, “so I wanted the text to be playful and provide opportunities for the parent and child to interact. We also made a point to provide layers of meaning so readers have something new to discover each time.”
Harte did her part by tucking some hidden gems into the illustrations. For example, each character has a companion animal (a seagull and a sea turtle) that follows her through the story. These animals never speak or appear to be anything other than natural creatures, but they spark discoveries and ideas. Each character also wears a necklace of found items, and they add to their necklaces as the book (and their friendship) progresses. The mermaid is collecting things that are unusual to her—man-made debris found in the ocean (a soda can pull-tab, a discarded sand shovel, a key) and the child is collecting things that are unusual to her—items from the ocean found on shore (seashells, a sand dollar).
Sakaduski and Harte also wanted the characters in the book to look like real children and not be overly mature or idealized, and agreed that the setting should showcase the beauty of nature. Harte went so far as to hire a child model so she could depict natural poses and childlike body characteristics. She also represented habitats and creatures actually found in Delaware. The book includes environmental themes, and adults may enjoy helping children notice the differences between the bay environment and the ocean and pointing out how the children are cleaning up their environments as they pick up objects to add to their necklaces.
The first thing many people notice is the quality of the illustrations in the book. “These are individual paintings, not computer-generated illustrations,” says Sakaduski. “Every page is a work of art.” The meticulously detailed scenes draw readers in and tell their own story. In fact, there are several spreads with no words at all to distract from the spectacular illustrations, which include a night scene with glowing fireflies and luna moths, and a dream of an undersea world that includes jellyfish, dolphins, and whales.
The Mermaid in Rehoboth Bay is a story that celebrates the beauty of the sea and tidal areas and depicts two strong female characters who are able to confront their fears and achieve their goals on their own. Great care has been taken to depict realistic, age-appropriate child-like characters that readers will identify with. The story addresses themes of friendship, girl empowerment, respect for differences, love of nature, and overcoming fears to achieve your goals.
The Mermaid in Rehoboth Bay is available only through stores and this website. It is a 32-page hardcover book with dust jacket that retails for $19.95.
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