Katherine Tegen Books, 2021
32pp., hbk., RRP $A 29.99
Oona the mermaid and her best friend Otto the pufferfish love to search for treasure on the ocean floor, … but often they find trouble instead.
Even shark-related trouble.
That’s never stopped them though! So when Oona spies a beautiful crown caught in the sand at the bottom of a narrow crack she was determined to have it. But does she have the courage to dive right in and fetch it from the dark, murky depths where who knows what might be waiting for her?
This is an engaging story that has the unusual twist of Oona actually giving up on retrieving the crown but then continuing with how that made her feel and her resolve returning. We all know the feeling of dissatisfaction when something we desire, tangible or not, remains just out of reach. We have to consider whether it is a walk-away thing or whether it’s an occasion to rethink our strategies so we can attain or achieve it. So, by not having Oona reach her goal, the author opens up the discussion about what we can do it we don’t win. In this success-oriented world where children are rewarded just for turning up to something they have committed to, they don’t often have the opportunity to learn to lose, to experience the feelings that that entails and how to not only deal with the loss but also those feelings.
The other element that sets this apart from other stories about mermaids is the illustrations, for Oona is not the stereotypical pretty white mermaid with long golden locks and fish-scale tail and Otto is not a cute rainbow-fish type companion, so that also could lead to an exploration of stereotypes, their impact on our perception and how something that is completely different from what we were expecting can impact on our reading. Does the diversity enhance the experience or distract from it?
This is a book for a range of ages – it could be just a story about a mermaid or even a discussion about how the “treasure” she finds ends up in the ocean, it could be the springboard to much more.