Cerrie Burnell is a well-known children’s presenter, born with part of her right arm missing, but she has not let anything stand in her way, and has enjoyed a successful career in acting, singing and presenting on CBeebies. She has written the picture book Snowflakes, about a girl who comes to the understanding that all snowflakes are different, a junior fiction book called Mermaid, about a girl in a wheelchair who can swim wonderfully well, and a popular series of 6 books, so far, about a girl called Harper, including the World Book Day title Harper and the Sea of Secrets, all of which involve some magic. An affinity with the sea and mermaids is apparent, and this book for slightly older children (the blurb says 9+) develops that theme. Cerrie borrows from her own family situation in the story of Amelie, known as Minnow, the mixed-race child of Mercy, who has a hook for a right hand, though Cerrie and her real mixed-race daughter Amelie probably don’t, in real life, live on a pirate ship as Mercy and Minnow do.
When Mercy is taken away by three men, apparently without too much protest, she has time to tell Minnow to go to her Grandma in Reykjavik. Minnow has never sailed the boat on her own before, but magic and singing certainly help her to get to Reykjavik and Grandma, and she makes a new friend, the boy Raife, there. Although forbidden by her fierce Grandma Anelka, the children, with the aid of a map made of moonlight and a book of Norse legends, find their way to the Wild Deep, discover why Mercy has been taken, and who Minnow’s father is, and sort out the situation, to the satisfaction of most people involved. There are sea monsters and sharks, strange children called Light Fins, and, of course, mer people of both genders.
It is a very exciting story, though if Cerrie is to continue writing for older children, she needs tighter plotting. Why, when Minnow thinks she is rescuing Raife from the sea, does this Icelandic boy immediately protest in English? Then later, it is obvious that the story demands that the children will take the boat and go to rescue Mercy, but why, in this book about three generations of strong women, is it Raife who says, ‘You could do it, you know’ and asks her to take the book of legends from her Grandma for him to read? Yes, she needs his help, but it should have been her idea in the first place. There are situations when a new skill, like the ability to breathe underwater, is discovered just in time, or help arrives unexpectedly ‘just when Minnow thought all was lost’, and this does sometimes feel a little clumsy. But it’s Cerrie, and involves mermaids, and this will be popular.