Monday, September 10, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: The Tail of Emily Windsnap


Title: The Tail of Emily Windsnap
Author: Liz Kessler
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2003. 211 pages.
Source: Library

Publisher's Blurb:
For as long as she can remember, twelve-year-old Emily Windsnap has lived on a boat. And, oddly enough, for just as long, her mother has seemed anxious to keep Emily away from the water. But when Mom finally agrees to let her take swimming lessons, Emily makes a startling discovery — about her own identity, the mysterious father she’s never met, and the thrilling possibilities and perils shimmering deep below the water’s surface. With a sure sense of suspense and richly imaginative details, first-time author Liz Kessler lures us into a glorious undersea world where mermaids study shipwrecks at school and Neptune rules with an iron trident — an enchanting fantasy about family secrets, loyal friendship, and the convention-defying power of love.  

My Review:
I just learned from the blurb that this was Liz Kessler's first book. I have reviewed North of Nowhere and Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins?, both of which I enjoyed. I can see that she started right off with her love of blending the real and the almost-real, or magical elements. I think I can also see that she honed her skills with the Emily Windsnap books, and I think it shows in a higher quality in the later books.

Not that this was bad. Kessler did a nice job of capturing Emily's panic over the change that happens when she gets in the water, as well as the joy that she is able to experience. Some other elements of the story, including Neptune and his court, I found a bit over the top. I got the feeling, as well, that the author periodically forgot that the merfolk world is under water, and some elements she describes just wouldn't work (including the conversations. Ever try to talk under water?).

I read the book because the second in the series was one of our summer reads for the GMGR Goodreads group, but I wasn't excited enough to bother with that second book. This one just didn't cut it for the adult audience, though I think it might hit the target audience quite well. 

My Recommendation:

This would be a good read (beach read?) for the 8-11 set, I think. It's going to appeal primarily to girls, though in fact it's a good adventure story.

FTC Disclosure: I checked The Tail of Emily Windsnap out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  


  1. Good review. I was dithering over reading it, and had in on my list for ages. Now... I don't know. Maybe I've gone beyond 'children's author'. Or maybe its just the world gone mad that stops me going there.

    1. Well, there are children’s books and children’s books. Some have more appeal to adults than others, and that’s not necessarily bad. I’m all in favor of what gets the kids reading, but I don’t feel the need to read it all (unless someone solicits my opinion, of course :D).

  2. I saw this series as a six-book boxset on Amazon in the spring, and decided to pick it up for my daughter (she's 8). I wanted to get her to supplement her reading with chapter books rather than only reading her Pokemon Adventures graphic novels. After a month of reluctance, I finally found a letter she'd written me saying how much she didn't enjoy reading that first book (this was like at chapter 3). With a sigh, I agreed that I'd read them to her (I wasn't about to waste the money I spent by letting them go unread) so long as she chose some chapter books to read.

    We're on book 6 now, and there's been many twitchy moments for me. Like how she's manipulative toward her "best friend" saying if they were best friends, she would do this such and such thing. Not to mention all the bad decisions of blatantly ignoring the rules. My daughter has enjoyed the books so far, but she knows how much I dislike Emily's choices in so many of the situations she finds herself in. That's probably reflective more on my own values than the writing or realistic characterization. But still, it makes me twitch. *twitch*

    1. Great insights, Loni! Yes, I think that Emily has some issues about choices, though this is maybe less apparent in the first book (still, the willingness to ignore both common sense and rules, and get away with it, I can see might be troubling to parents!).


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