CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 11. . . .November 17, 2017
Mermaid Warrior Squad.
Karin Adams. Illustrated by Janine Carrington.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2017.
152 pp., trade pbk. & EPUB, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4594-1146-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-1151-7 (EPUB).
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Christine McCrea.
"I'm going to ask you to imagine a place. Then, acting together, you have to convince us that you're in that place. First, I need three volunteers…" Morgan's eyes swooped over our group, like a searchlight looking for escaped prisoners. I clenched my teeth and held my breath. Coral was already fidgeting and waving her hand around in the air. A few others in our group were doing the same, like they couldn't wait to get up there and embarrass themselves.
I hugged my knees close to my body. I made myself into a tiny ball. I was glad I had worn my hair down. When I tilted my head it made a curtain for my face, protecting me from Morgan's notice.
"How about… Lamar," Morgan called out. "And Jade…"
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Coral swooping her arm back and forth, like she was directing an airplane to the landing strip. Then I felt her tug at my arm, trying to get me to raise my hand too. No! I pressed my elbows tightly to my ribs. Please, not me. Not yet! I thought." (pp. 41-42.)
Dylan arrives at Art Camp feeling shy and nervous. Very quickly she meets Coral who is loud and boisterous. Amazingly, they bond over their knowledge of shark facts and their love of mermaids. Their "shared brain" (p. 9) leads them to collaborate on a comic book called Mermaid Warrior Squad in which two mermaid superheroes battle evil polluters.
Dylan loves her new friendship with Coral, but she finds herself constantly embarrassed by Coral's raucous ways. Cool kids Jade, Sarina and Ben are quick to make fun of Dylan and Coral, and Dylan can't take the pressure.
As the campers begin to consider their roles in the show that will be their big finale, a rift begins to form between Dylan and Coral. Coral wants the two of them to perform, but Dylan prefers to work behind the scenes. When Dylan discovers that Ben and Jade are planning to make a fool of Coral on stage, she knows she has to act. Dylan must learn to stand up to the cool kids, even if it draws attention her way.
Mermaid Warrior Squad addresses the confusing feelings of the preteen girl while keeping the story light and fun. Readers will identify with Dylan's difficulties in navigating social situations.
The novel is peppered with pages from the comic that Dylan and Coral are writing, linking the comic book story and the girls' real life story together. The illustrations bring Dylan and Coral to life and often reveal Dylan's feelings of being misunderstood and isolated.
There is more to Dylan than shyness however. She is creative, intelligent and friendly. By the end of the story, Dylan is able to overcome some of her fears and stand up for her friend. Ultimately, her strength of character triumphs.
The combination of graphic novel and chapter book, as well as the short chapters and appealing narrative make Mermaid Warrior Squad an excellent choice for reluctant readers.
Christine McCrea is a children's librarian at Richmond Public Library in BC.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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