Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 10 to 14
- Grade: 5 to 9
Fourteen-year-old Jade feels like a freak-of-nature when she finally gets her first period while trying on an XL tankini at the mall. It gets worse when she runs into handsome Luke Martin in the feminine products aisle while her dad Googles ‘menstruation' on his Blackberry.
But ‘freak-of-nature' takes on a whole new meaning when raging hormones bring on another metamorphosis—complete with scales and a tail. WhenJade learns she's inherited her mermaid tendencies from her late mother, it raises the question: if Mom was a mermaid, how did she drown?
About the author
Hélène Boudreau is a Canadian writer and artist. A native of Isle Madame, Nova Scotia, she writes fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults from her home in Markham, Ontario. She's the author of seven novels for children including the first Red Dune Adventure, Keep Out! and Acadian Star, which was nominated for the 2009–2010 Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award. Visit her website at heleneboudreau.com.
Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe RingsFor Jade, it’s tough to be 13. Swimsuits don’t fit, cute boys turn her brain to mush — and then there’s the mermaid’s tail she woke up with in the bathtub. She soon learns she can shift from human to mermaid — an inheritance from her recently-deceased mother. But if her mother was a mermaid, how could she possibly drown? Could she still be alive? And how can Jade learn to handle her new double life when she doesn’t even like to swim?
It’s a quirky concept, but Real Mermaids wears it well. The merfolk are handled with refreshing practicality — Boudreau has clearly thought about the special problems of life underwater, and brings us not willowy figures of sailors’ fancy but a species that feels realistically alien. The biggest draw here, however, is the human side of the story.
Jade’s inner monologue is breezy and often hilarious; even her insecurities are likeable. Her supporting cast is also appealing, and the problems with which they contend — strife with friends, grief for lost loves, and learning to live with one’s differences — are handled with a sweet, almost nostalgic sensitivity. And the dash of mysterious adventure is just right: exciting without overpowering quieter facets of the plot.
It isn’t a perfect book — there are some narrative moments that feel contrived, and the glimpses we get of mer-life raise questions that beg to be explored further. But these are minor quibbles with a solid work; anyone seeking a charming light read may dive right in with confidence.
Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Spring 2011. Volume 34 No. 2.