The Girl Who Thought Her Mother Was a Mermaid
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Stella is the odd one out. She sleepwalks, is terrified of water, yet obsessed by the ocean. Her mum, who died when she was eight, remains the biggest mystery of all. Who was she and why did she give Stella a necklace called "the word of the sea" before she died? Stella is just going to have to find out for herself...
Tania Unsworth's story is beautifully written, with some wonderful imagery (a touching moment is when Stella puts an ear to her dying mother's chest, as if she is a shell and should contain the sound of the sea).
This isn't the only complex issue that the book handles well. The relationship between Stella and her Gramma – who has dementia – is portrayed with such love. On top of that, the book also explores bullying and loneliness.
But this isn't a heavy read. It handles everything with a lightness of touch, and the bulk of the book is a rollicking adventure with some tense, nailbiting moments and giddy splashes of magical realism.
The is-she-or-isn't-she matter of Stella's mum being a mermaid drives the narrative on, too – with a few twists along the way. You'll just have to read it to find out...