The Tail of Emily Windsnap (Tail of Emily Windsnap #1)

The Tail of Emily Windsnap (Tail of Emily Windsnap #1)

4.6 513
by Liz Kessler

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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… See more details below


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The heroine discovers she is half-mermaid in her seventh-grade swim class. "Pre-teen girls will likely bite at this novel's tempting bait," in PW's words. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The Tail of Emily Windsnap opens with a tantalizing question: "Can you keep a secret?" The first-person narrator, a 12-year-old girl named Emily, then relates an amazing fish story. Discovering her mermaid nature in seventh grade swim class, she goes on to find her father (a merman imprisoned for loving Emily's human mother) and to confront Neptune in his glittering underwater court. In her debut novel, Liz Kessler creates an engaging heroine, full of funny asides and derring do, and a sparkling, fast-paced story with more plot twists than a mermaid's flipping tail. Hand this one to your kids when they complain of nothing to do. 2003, Candlewick, Ages 8 to 12.
—Mary Quattlebaum
Emily is in seventh grade and has finally persuaded her mother to let her take swimming lessons. Even though they live on a houseboat, her mother stays away from the water. But when Emily jumps into the pool something strange starts to happen, and she panics. That night she just has to know. She sneaks out onto the pier, slips into the ocean—and becomes a mermaid. Somehow Emily knows to keep her discovery a secret, even from her mother. Fortunately a few nights later she meets Shona, a full-time mermaid. They have great fun exploring the ocean and become best friends. Emily even visits Shona's mermaid school. Emily never met her father, and although her mother misses him deeply, she seems to have trouble remembering him. At Shona's school, Emily hears the scandalous story behind her father's disappearance. The mystery intensifies when the two girls stumble across secret files being kept on Emily, her mother, and her father. Initially Kessler's story shows every intention of being lighthearted and sweet, including illustrations sprinkled through the text. But once Emily becomes determined to find her father, she goes through some frightening times. She is betrayed by a former friend, struggles against a memory drug being forced on her mother, infiltrates an underwater prison, and confronts Neptune himself. Kessler seems unsure about the tone she wishes to set, but middle school girls nonetheless will enjoy the tale. VOYA Codes 3Q 4P M (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2004, Candlewick, 224p., Ages 11 to 14.
—Angela Carstensen
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Seventh-grader Emily Windsnap has never learned to swim, in spite of the fact that she and her mother live on a houseboat. When she finally takes a swimming class at school, her legs turn into a fishtail. She tries to hide her strange affliction, but something draws her to the sparkling surf. Soon, she is secretly gliding through the water as a mermaid. Below the waves, she meets Shona, also 12, who takes her to mermaid school and leads her on several adventures. When Emily learns the intriguing history of the Shiprock community and of illegal marriages between humans and merpeople, she begins to look for her merman father. Danger, humor, confrontation, and even a trial before Neptune all play a part in her search. Eventually, she finds her dad and comes to understand the truth about her oddly controlling neighbor, Mr. Beeston; her mother's dislike of water; and her parents' love affair. All ends well when the family is reunited and swims away to live a new life on a secret merfolk island. This fantasy has some delightful moments, but not enough to keep it afloat. Characters are not fully developed, the plot wavers between complicated and oversimplified, and the transition from merworld to human is not smooth.-Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Emily Windsnap Series, #1
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

As I swam around the rocks at the end of the bay, the water became clearer and softer. It was like switching from grainy black-and-white film into color. The fat gray fish were replaced by stripy yellow-and-blue ones with floppy silver tails, long thin green ones with spiky antennae and angry mouths, orange ones with spotted black fins—-all darting purposefully around me.

Every now and then, I swam across a shallow sandy stretch. Wispy little sticklike creatures as thin as paper wriggled along beneath me, almost see-through against the sand. Then the water would suddenly get colder and deeper as I went over a rocky part. I swished myself across these carefully. They were covered in prickly black sea urchins, and I wouldn’t be thrilled to get one of those stuck on my tail.

Soon the water got warmer again as I came to another shallow part. I was getting tired. I came up for fresh air and realized I was miles from home; farther away than I’d ever been on my own. I tried to flick myself along, but my tail flapped lazily and started to ache. Eventually, I made it to a big, smooth rock with a low shelf. I pulled myself out of the water, my tail resting on some pebbles in the sea. A minute later, it went numb. I wiggled my toes and shivered as I watched my legs come back. That part was still really creepy!

Sitting back against a larger rock, I caught my breath. Then I heard something. Like singing, but without words. The wet rocks shimmered in the moonlight, but there was no one around. Had I imagined it? The water lapped against the pebbles, making them jangle as it sucked its breath away from the shore. There it was again—-the singing.

Where was it coming from? I clambered up a jagged rock and looked down the other side. That’s when I saw her. I rubbed my eyes. Surely it couldn’t be . . . but it was! It was a mermaid! A real one!

The kind you read about in kids’ stories. Long blond hair all the way down her back, which she was brushing while she sang. She was perched on the edge of a rock, shuffling a bit as though she were trying to get comfortable. Her tail was longer and thinner than mine. Silvery green and shimmering in the moonlight, it flapped against the rock as she sang.

She kept singing the same song. When she got to the end, she started again. A couple of times, she was in the middle of a really high part when she stopped and hit her tail with the brush. "Come on, Shona," she said sharply. "Get it right!"

I stared for ages, opening and closing my mouth like a fish. I wanted to talk to her. But what exactly do you say to a singing mermaid perched on a rock in the middle of the night? Funnily enough, I’ve never had that come up before.

In the end, I coughed gently and she looked up immediately.

"Oh!" she said. She gaped open-mouthed at my legs for a second. And then, with a twist and a splash, she was gone.

From the Hardcover edition.

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