The Little Mermaid and Other Fishy Tales

Rather than a Friday book round-up, I must share this book with you. The Little Mermaid and Other Fishy Tales is a collection of stories and poems about fish and the sea. It's the second such collection by the wonderful illustrator Jane Ray. The first, The Emperor's Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales revolved around books. I would love to see that one, but our library doesn't have it.

The Little Mermaid and Other Fishy Tales by Jane Ray.
Boxer Books, 2014.

We happened upon this book by accident. Browsing the new release shelf at our family branch of the library, it caught my youngest daughter's eye. After reading the contents, we knew it had to come home with us.

While there are several poems, the fairy and folk tales in the book are retellings by Jane Ray, which gives the book a uniform feel. I've included links to the stories, but keep in mind, they may differ from the telling by Ray.

It opens with a famous Japanese tale, "The Kingdom Under the Sea," about a man who saves a turtle from some mean children. The turtle returns to grant the man a gift, a ride under the sea to visit the Dragon King. The turtle turns out to be the Dragon King's daughter in disguise. It's a beautiful tale with a bittersweet ending - my favorite kind.

You don't have too much time to be sad, however, because next is Lewis Carroll's "The Lobster Quadrille!"

Ray takes some liberties with her retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid." She doesn't give us a Disneyesque ending, with Ariel and Eric married and living happily ever after, but the mermaid isn't rejected to become a "spirit of the air," either. I can understand wanting to change the ending, but I'm not sure it's my favorite. The illustrations are amazing, though.

"The Fisherman and His Wife" is a retelling of a Grimm fairy tale, about a fish who grants wishes and the man's very greedy wife.

After "A Ballad of John Silver," we're treated to an African "trickster tale" called "Monkey and Shark."

There are two tales taken from Greek mythology. The first is the tale of "Arion and the Dolphins," about a musician held captive by his ship's captain, and the music-appreciating dolphin who gives her life to save him. The second is Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem, "The Kraken."

The next story is Inuit in origin, "Raven and the Whale," about the creator of the world (Raven) and the cycle of life.

And then we have "The Seal Wife," because what would a book of sea tales be without a Selkie story?

The book concludes with a recent poem, "Whalesong" by Sophie Stephenson-Wright.

There is more information on the origins of some of the contents at the back of the book.

So, yes, this is a stunning book. It made me long for a seaside vacation, tasting the salt on the wind. I've added it to one of our wish lists, so perhaps a copy will make a home for itself on our shelves one day.

We begin a week of dance rehearsals tomorrow, because next weekend are recitals! I have some wonderful dance books chosen, as well as some videos to share. And maybe a photo or two...

Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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  1. Such a beautiful book! I'd love to have a look at this. Great illustrations too!

    1. I know! I wish the library had the companion book. Maybe after I knock our library pile down a bit, I'll look into interlibrary loan. ;)


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