Written by Eleanor Cullen
Illustrated by Dave Roberts
Published by Pop Up ISBN 978-1-8383-2354-7
Reviewed by Karl Andy Foster
A Match for a Mermaid is part of the 10 Stories to Make a Difference collection: ten original illustrated stories for young readers, all inspired by the theme of Difference. The collection features a mix of well-known and emerging writers and illustrators, giving a platform to untold stories and diverse new voices. We need to see more initiatives like this as it is vital that everyone is ‘seen’ in children’s fiction.
Your perfect match is out there somewhere, even if that somewhere is under the sea. Malu, the Mermaid Queen decides it is time to find a consort and she employs her chief hand-maid Brooke to make it so. The search begins in earnest to find the One. They could be tall or short, thin or thick, with flowing locks or cropped, rough or smooth and they all rush to the Queen to prove themselves worthy of her. Malu will only entertain the best suitors and they are all eager to hear her commands. However, they find her commands are surprising and unexpected.
After several false-starts and misunderstandings the field of suitors is whittled down to the One who is the perfect match. The story is designed to help us to understand that each time that you look far and wide you also need to remember to look closer to home for solutions. Sometimes you only fully appreciate those around you once you have seen the whole world.
Award winning illustrator David Roberts has crafted an underwater kingdom that seems enclosed at times as it exists in one specific space. A royal throne room is such a special place. The vignettes he employs on several pages adds to this effect. His Mer-people are extraordinary and colourful with personalities to match.
Eleanor Cullen tells her story in rhyming couplets. This allows for the possibility to sing the text out loud for young readers so they will learn the rhythms of written language. I could almost imagine the sounds coming from this underwater environment complete with its flora and fauna. The supporting characters add to the sense of location. I really like the highly stylized Seahorses.
Roberts and Cullen use a device in the text as old as western writing, the illuminated raised capital. As the story progresses, we see more of the underwater realm through this device. This is a story that is working on many levels, and for some adult readers it will chime in with their own adventures with love and loss. Right, where did I leave that Seahorse? I have some exploring to do!