Is it a mermaid? by Candy Gourlay

cover image

Ill. by Francesca Chessa. Otto-Barry Books, 2018. ISBN 9781910959121
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Mermaids, Dugongs, Philippines, Conservation, Environment, Ocean. This environmentally aware, laugh out loud story with its perky illustrations will be a treat for younger readers having it read out loud to them, or newly confident readers wanting to share in the humour for themselves. Two friends, Beni and Bel find a dugong on the shore. near their home in the Philippines. She tells them that she is a mermaid, and tries to show the pair her attributes.
Her features and appalling singing do not convince Belnju but Bel is entranced. Younger readers will love the tension between these two friends as they attempt to convince each other about the animal, drawing confidence about supporting their own opinions while listening to another's.
The dugong may be clumsy on land, but once the trio dives into the water, they see another side to this animal, as she weaves and dives around the seaweeds and animals that live beneath the surface of the water.
It is a delight to see a book about the Philippines, a setting rarely seen, and concerning an animal that is not often shown in picture books, but is endangered around the world as its seagrass food source is destroyed and the animal is battered by sea vessels. More information about this animals, related to the elephant, is given at the end of the book, intriguing readers once again, and encouraging them to follow up the weblink given.
The jaunty sun filled illustrations reflect the lifestyle of the children living in such a beautiful environment.
Fran Knight