The book follows the life of a mermaid Mariana who is 'left on the ocean floor by a careless mother’ and has serious self esteem problems feeling useless and fearful. She is then helped by a turtle Muriel, who patiently helps her to learn to swim, and not feel such a failure when around the other mermaids. She goes on to learn to sing a mermaid song, swim with dolphins and be the mermaid she could be, thanks in no small part to the watchful eye of Muriel.
Clearly there is an allegory here for a child abandoned and the trials that can be encountered due to that.The role of Muriel is that of the carer who has to keep faith and nurture and support the child to help overcome those negative feelings.
The book is short and read easily and the pictures are vivid and appropriate for children maybe aged 6-10 years. It lacks any positive male role model which is a shame. The only man was a fisherman, who did nothing positive for her; I would have preferred something more positive from those she encountered. I felt it was a rather dark story and focused a bit too heavily on the negative side of things…this mermaid has nothing good to say about herself-she can’t even get caught by fishermen…they throw her back! Fortunately by the end of the story the main character is happier and has successfully overcome her dark feelings. I think it might be a book to be shared together with young children-the mention of the careless mother might make it unsuitable in some situations, which some carers may need to be sensitive about. Other than that, for me, I’d have preferred it to have been about a mermaid who could and focus a bit more on the positive, even despite the difficulties she was born into. Thankfully by the end of the story it had some joy.
The Mermaid Who Couldn't by Ali Redford, illustrated by Kara Simpson (Jessica Kinglsey Publishers)