Tuesday, November 30, 2010

mermaids and appeal

Earlier this month I went to an inspiring workshop with Olga Nesi about using appeal terms to talk about and teach students to describe books.  (see this article from School Library Journal for a quick introduction to the concept of appeal terms http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/home/885803-312/its_all_about_text_appeal.html.csp )

I was thinking about this workshop as I read yet another mermaid book.  Books can feel so different, even when a description of plot or topic makes them seem related.  Here are the two "mermaid books" that I read this month.  One is current, and the other isn't.  Libraries can be like that...

Appelt, Kathi. Keeper. New York: Atheneum for Young Readers, 2010.
Kessler, Liz. The Tail of Emily Windsnap. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick, 2006.

A description could make them seem closely related but their appeal is miles apart.  I would recommend them both - but not to the same reader!

Ten-year-old Keeper heads to a sandbar in a small boat along with her dog BD and a seagull named Captain in order to find her mother, a mermaid who left her when Keeper was only three. 

After twelve-year-old Emily discovers she is a mermaid during 7th grade swim class she is determined to find and rescue her estranged father. 

Keeper is a compelling book with a quiet and timeless feel.  The entire story takes place over one complex and multi-layered day surrounding a rich cast of characters that explore many kinds of love.

The Tail of Emily Windsnap is a lively romp through school and family on shore (or at least in a boat) and under the sea with recognizable if eccentric characters and a comfortably resolved plot. 

Both books are wonderful in their own way.  The Tail of Emily Windsnap will leave some readers begging for more (and I will stock the sequels in my library), but years later the reader won't really remember why.  Keeper on the other hand is the kind of book that the right reader will want to go back and read again, and will tell their very special friends (as I am telling you) that they just have to read it.

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