Thursday, May 31, 2012

A New Series for the Small Fry

Mermaid Tales by Debbie Dadey

            Denver Downtown Aquarium (formerly Colorado's Ocean Journey) has always been a favorite destination for a Saturday or holiday outing with the grandchildren. There's something magical and mysterious, almost mesmerizing, about life under the sea.  Remember the Jacque Cousteau TV documentaries?  Now children's author, Debbie Dadey, has captured that same excitement of underwater life in her new series of chapter books, called "Mermaid Tales."

            So far two books have been published in the series, "Trouble at Trident Academy" and "Battle of the Best Friends" with more tales to follow. Book Three will be "A Whale of a Tale" and judging from the teaser at the end of Book Two it looks like another winner.  I was excited when this series was announced because I had read Dadey's book for authors, "Story Sparkers: A Creativity Guide for Children's Writers," and I knew her own work would be fascinating.

            I always like to read children' books before I give them to the kids, not so much to make sure they're age appropriate and interesting for them, but more because - confession time - I like to read the good ones, myself.  Who wouldn't be interested in squid, octopus, oysters, plankton, mussels, and the sharpnose sevengill shark?  Especially when they're friends, or enemies, of a beautiful mermaid named Shelly in a story with a plot that any third grader will recognize as home territory.  In fact, I suspect that at times some young readers may forget that the five main characters are mermaids and not boys and girls.  The third grade at Trident Academy is full of interesting people - merpeople, that is - and plots.


            As the reader gets engrossed in the Mermaid Tales, they're sure to come across underwater life they'd like to get to know better.  Dadey provides a wonderful glossary that's a great place to start.  Who knew that a sablefish could live to be 90 years old or that "the sea wasp is another name for the box jellyfish, which is the world's most venomous marine animal?"

            The books are further enhanced with such features as a map of Trident City, class reports written by the main characters, and clever illustrations throughout the chapters.  One of my favorites is the page of portraits of the "cast of characters:"  Shelly, of course, and her best friend, Echo, an awful snob named Pearl, a shy but courageous classmate named Kiki, and Rocky, a cool dude of a merboy.  
            I'll give these books to Madeleine as a present to mark the end of her grade two school year.  I know she's going to enjoy them as much as I did.  Maybe I'll ask her to be a guest blogger when she's done reading the first two Mermaid Tales.  She can tell my readers if I got it right. 

            PS  By the way, my grandsons have always been as fascinated by the Downtown Aquarium as the girls - maybe even more so.  Couldn't there be a chapter book series, maybe about sharks or sting rays, for the boys, filled with the same wonder, plot, and excitement as the Mermaid Tales?  I don't mean to complain; it's just that.... well if I give The Mermaid Tales to Eloise and Madeleine, what's for August, Jacob, Sonder, Odin, Larson, and Noah (and me, of course)?