________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 37. . . .May 23, 2014


The Mermaid and the Shoe.

K. G. Campbell.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2014.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-55453-771-6.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

**** /4



King Neptune had fifty daughters.
Some might call them mermaids.
They were his pride and joy.

“Clio,” the king would boast,
“is a gifted gardener.”
“Thetis is a fantastic fish trainer.”
“Calypso sings with silvery moonlight in her voice.”

Each princess, it seemed, was
more remarkable than the last.

Except Minnow.

Minnow’s garden was limp and sparse.
Fish did not follow her instructions.
In her voice, there was no light of any kind.
She did, however, ask many many questions.


It would seem that of all King Neptune’s daughters, Minnow is the only one who has no accomplishments, unless one considers an insatiable inquiring mind and the desire to find answers a true gift! Minnow’s curiosity was not prized by her talented sisters, especially Calypso, who was irritated by Minnow’s questioning nature.

internal art     One day, Minnow discovers an interesting and mysterious red object and, despite her insecurity, is determined to find its purpose. She proceeds to query the octopus, the whale, and some crabs, all to no avail. She is running out of creatures to question. But her inquisitiveness leads her to the surface of the ocean, and she spies a lighthouse. Although she is about to give up, her observation of a creature (aka a young girl) helps to solve the mystery, and she is “horrified” by what she thinks are “Knobby, gnarled, smelly, hands.” Minnow’s persistence pays off, and she swims back home, eager to share the news about this object. King Neptune recognizes Minnow’s newfound talent and specialty by acknowledging her as a “daring explorer”.

     This fairy tale-like story is delightfully told with gentle humour, featuring an unlikely heroine, whose journey to discover a special role in her life will make a great read-aloud. Mermaids and sea life are so appealing and fascinating to the young. But beyond the charm of a well-told story, I could see The Mermaid and the Shoe being successfully used as a vehicle in the classroom or home setting to reaffirm the power of perseverance, the importance of inquisitiveness and to remind children that there is value is believing in yourself.

     Campbell’s skill with watercolours and pencil crayons is undeniable. There is something ethereal in the muted grays, soft blues and pastel tones of the drawings that effectively depict life deep in the sea, with the bright red shoe providing an interesting contrast. Several pictures below sea are framed in what could be sea weed, kelp or floating ocean debris, while others are majestic double page spreads that capture the scope of an ocean. Campbell’s unique perspectives are a highlight, and the depiction of movement, with floating hair and whimsical bubbles, is a winning strategy. As the recipient of an Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor and an Illustrators’ Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration, Campbell’s talent shines through in this offering.

Highly Recommended.

Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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