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Children's Fiction Fantasy & Magic

Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings

by (author) Helene Boudreau

Initial publish date
Dec 2010
Fantasy & Magic
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2010
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 10 to 14
  • Grade: 5 to 9


It's hard being a pre-teen girl; it's even harder when you find out you're a mermaid!

This is a fast-paced coming-of-age comedy novel that has adventure, mystery, and a touch of romance by Hélène Boudreau, nominated for a Canadian children's choice award for her middle grade novel ACADIAN STAR.

If she hadn't been so clueless, she might have seen it coming. But really, who expects to get into a relaxing bathtub after a stressful day of shopping for tankinis and come out with scales and a tail?

Most. Embarrassing. Moment. Ever.

Jade soon discovers she inherited her mermaid tendencies from her mom. But if Mom was a mermaid, how did she drown?

Jade is determined to find out. So how does a plus-size, aqua-phobic mer-girl go about doing that exactly? And how will Jade ever be able to explain her secret to her best friend, Cori, and to her crush, Luke?

This summer is about to get a lot more interesting…

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

Helene Boudreau's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"This was a quick and easy read and I managed to read it in one sitting as I was curled up on the couch one afternoon. The day I read it was over cast and dreary out. Your typical winter day so it was nice to imagine being somewhere nice and summery. This is a great middle grade book for girl readers." — Cindy’s Love of Books

"Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings is absolute brilliance in one of it's most humorous and touching forms, making me not only laugh-out-loud several times but I also teared up on occasion! ...both a delightful and moving blend of clever wit, action, adventure, family, and friends. Seriously, this book had it all, and Boudreau was able to pull it off without making the book seem cluttered. Throw in Jade's little journey of self-discovery and you've got the perfect coming-of-age story." — The Book Pixie

"Boudreau has woven an exciting tale of mermaid mythology and growing up… a witty, fun, and humorous novel with many cute lessons to learn!" — The Bookologist

"Helene Boudreau’s Real Mermaids Don’t’ Wear Toe Rings surprised the heck out of me! It was funny with snappy dialogue, poignant in its quirky coming-of age portrayal, and totally engaging in its frank yet corny depiction of the protagonist’s struggles with puberty, relationships, and dealing with her mother’s loss.

Even though this novel is geared towards a middle level female audience, it is a very engaging and an immensely entertaining romp. The ending was almost as fun as the start, with an unexpected twist that left me smiling and completely satisfied." — Eating YA Books

"Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings is like no other coming-of-age story that I have read yet. It’s charming yet exciting with an adventure of lives at stake." — Books By Their Cover

"This new take on mythical and paranormal storylines is refreshing in itself, but Jade’s voice makes us true believers that maybe mermaids really do exist in our world." — Night Owl Reviews

" absolutely charming book...[Jade’s] 'voice' was well articulated, strong, and often comical." — I Just Wanna Sit Here And Read

"Everything about Hélène Boudreau's latest release was wonderful. The characters were likable, the plot was somewhat unique, and the outcome, although slightly predictable, was completely satisfying. I was hooked from the first page, and pleased when I flipped over the last one.

Overall, this is one book you just can't miss. Its a fun and quick read, and even comes with Jade's recipe for scrumptious 5-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake in the end!" — Icey Books

"Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings not only is an extremely quick, adorable, and funny read, but it's also the perfect cross-over between tween and YA lit, so that truly anyone in those two groups can read it and have a high chance of enjoying it.

The premise of this was pretty great, and the execution was even better." — Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf

"Jade is pretty certain that she has just experienced the most humiliating moment ever: when she gets her first period in the mall, she has to enlist her dad for help, since her mom disappeared a year ago. That's nothing compared to later that night, though, when she sprouts a tail in the bath, and her father explains to her that her mom is a mermaid who petitioned to become human. No one was sure how their offspring would develop, but Jade's tail growth pretty much cinches her mermaid status. She quickly decides to hide her condition from her hunky new crush, but she will use her new abilities to find her missing mother, who was abducted in hopes that she would tell imprisoned merfolk the secret of her conversion so that they might follow suit. Despite the jocular title, there's a hefty dose of darkness in the fantasy, especially surrounding Jade's mother's savage kidnapping and the physical torments of her transformation. On the other hand, Jade's tone is an accessible mix of bluster, insecurity, and sincerity, and the story makes menstrual embarrassment, mermaid abductions, and true (pesco-sapien) love all simultaneously plausible and deserving of reader sympathy. In true young-teen fashion, everything is exclamation-point-style dramatic, from the horrific change from mermaid to human to Jade's emphatic assertions about trying on bathing suits. Offer this quirky novel to readers who love mermaids but wish that they were occasionally less flowy and perfect and more . . . real." — Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Real mermaids are really cute. This was adorable." — (W)ords and (W)ardances

"I thought this book was the most cutest book I had ever read... Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more of Helene's books because she is just a fun author!" — The Book Mermaid

"What I most loved about this book was the main character. She just felt like a completely real person, like someone you went to middle school with. And her voice was hilarious. When I finished the book, I put it down with a contented sigh. It was an incredibly fun and satisfying read." — Anna of First Page Panda

"Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings had plenty of humor, action and a mystery. Younger girls will especially eat it up and wish for more of Jade's story." — Michelle and Leslie’s Book Picks

"This coming of age tale (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun!) has a lot that tween/teen girls can relate to — friendship drama, crushes, puberty/body image issues — with a fantasy flair and a bit of mystery to boot." — Chrissie Morrison, Tween & Teen Librarian, The East Greenbush Community Library" — Librarina: Great books for Tweens & Teens

"...a cute mermaid book with depth. It's a coming-of-age tale. It's a mystery. It's a friendship novel. It's a first crush story. All of these combined make one fun read. There's danger, romance, family drama, funny escapades, and sweet moments between a father and his daughter." —

"This is one book I would definitely recommend for tweens. It's a fun, charming, witty story and one teen girls and women can definitely relate to in some sense. Not many books can deliver the humor of the "you know what" all girls get and deal with for the first time, like Helene did with Jade. I hope I get to read more about Jade. Her voice is one that will be hard to forget. This is a coming of age story with humor." — Mundie Kids Reviews

"Boudreau spins a fast paced, coming of age story that will be enjoyed by all ages although I think tweens will like it the most." — Book Blather

"This was a short cute book, and I loved the mermaid explanation. That was really original and it almost made me believe it could be true. So here the author really thought about how and why there are mermaids.

Recommendation and final thoughts:

A yes there, this is something young girls would enjoy. First there is mermaids, cool, the crush, and issues with friends. The paranormal and the down to earth things all young people go through." — The Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

"I loved this book! I don’t want to spoil very many of the plot points, so I’ll just gush about Jade instead. She makes the book. She has a great personality and she’s very down to earth, but she also suffers from some very pesky issues with her self-confidence.

Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings is a fun read, with mystery, suspense, and lots of danger. I liked the characters, I thought the premise was great, and I enjoyed reading along as Jade gains confidence in herself and comes to terms with who and what she is. I hope that there will be a sequel, because I would love to learn more about Jade and I look forward to spending more time with her." — Manga Maniac Cafe

"I saw a few other people in the blogosphere reading this, so I decided to give it a go. I love it so far. ...spontaneous and original..." — My Book Thoughts

"Oh, how I love this book! It's cute, spunky, and original and there's mermaids...what more could a girl ask for? Overall, I highly recommend Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings. It's a great MG book and will appeal to some YA readers as well." — Harmony Book Reviews

Librarian Reviews

Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings

For 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.

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