When a small Dutch ship reels in an ailing merman from the sea, the ship's lieutenant insists on nursing the creature back to health, despite his crew's superstition that the merman is an ill omen, and earns a great boon.
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Grade 3-5-In April, 1663, Lieutenant Maarten Huiskemp befriends a young cabin boy, Pieter, and discusses with him the "fact" that mermaids are mythical. When a half-man, half-fish creature is caught in the ship's nets and brought onboard, the lieutenant is torn between belief in the "humanity" of the creature and fear of its unnaturalness. Through his conversations with Pieter and his private musings, readers see the man move slowly toward accepting that the creature has feelings, can think, and can even communicate despite being mute. When he and Pieter see the merman's wife and daughter swimming near the ship, he realizes that they cannot let him die. Over the protests of the superstitious crew, they release him. This is a gentle, thought-provoking story that is based on a historical sighting. There is little action since Lieutenant Huiskemp's struggle is an internal one. He is presented as a conscientious leader who is very much a part of his time but who has an inquiring and open mind. Pieter is presented as a kind of catalyst to the lieutenant's thinking. He questions established beliefs and is genuinely concerned for and accepting of the sea man. The last chapter, in which the merman teaches the Lieutenant a form of sign language after his release, does not ring as true as the rest of the narrative, but young readers may find it satisfying. Full-page dark and shadowy illustrations that reflect the magical nature of the story are scattered throughout.
Wendy D. Caldiero, New York Public Library
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
A 1663 sailing ship is the setting for this short chapter book. Rescuing what appears to be a man trapped in a net, the sailors discover that from the waist down, the creature has the tail of a fish. The lieutenant in charge of the ship grapples with the conflicting views of legend, science, and religion as well as with the problem of protecting the merman from the knives of his superstitious crew and returning him to the ocean. His kindness to the sea man earns him an unusual reward. Nine softly shaded pencil drawings illustrate the story and reflect its understated style. Though the cabin boy is a sympathetic child-character, the point of view is that of the lieutenant, whose philosophical concerns may not hold young readers. Still, those looking for something different will find this an unusual story with attractive pencil illustrations. Carolyn Phelan
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Book Description Philomel, U.S.A., 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. "What creature is this--half man, half fish? So wonder the crew of a small Dutch ship when they pull the creature up from the sea.". Bookseller Inventory # 008640
Book Description Philomel, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110399229396
Book Description Philomel. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0399229396 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1075058
Book Description Philomel, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0399229396