Emily’s Big Discovery by Liz Kessler, illustrated by Joanie Stone

Emily’s Big Discovery (The World of Emily Windsnap, Book 1) by Liz Kessler, illustrated by Joanie Stone. Candlewick Press, 2022. 9781536215229

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Fantasy

What did you like about the book?  Emily’s mother never lets her go in the ocean, which frustrates Emily especially since they live on a boat; when they go to the beach she isn’t even allowed to wade in the water.  When her school offers swimming lessons, Emily goes into the pool effortlessly but while underwater experiences a strange sensation in her legs.  Her swim instructor says it’s probably a cramp, but Emily is unsure.  She sneaks out at night after her Mom goes to sleep and soon discovers that the odd feeling was her feet and legs turning into a mermaid tail! She swims about for a bit, and meets Shona, a mermaid about her age who gives her some insight into the underwater world.  Emily returns to shore with a big secret, a new friend, and lots of questions.  

Children will relate to Emily’s frustration with her mother’s rules, especially since the rules create a sense of loneliness for Emily.  They might be startled by Emily’s potentially dangerous decision to defy the rules, but will cheer when that decision leads to self-discovery and a friend.  Short chapters, large font and generous spacing make the text quite accessible, and plentiful, adorable illustrations with an aquatic color scheme add to the appeal.  This is an early chapter book adaptation of the beginning of the author’s middle grade book The Tail of Emily Windsnap.  It will be well-received by those young readers who are always looking for a new mermaid book, and the promise of future books in the series is welcome as well.    

Anything you did not like about the book? It might lead readers to the middle grade series (which would be a good thing), but Emily is 13 at the start of those books, and deals with some very middle-school stuff, which might be a bit confusing, since the storyline is the same but she seems to be 9 or 10 in this new version.   

To whom would you recommend this book? It is a good fit for 1st and 2nd graders who are fans of magical series like The Princess in Black or maybe Unicorn Diaries, or as a precursor to more challenging ones such as Fairy Mom and Me or Mermaids Rock.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Early chapter books, fiction

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: May 20, 2022

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