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Children's LiteratureAnd what, you might ask, is a half-mermaid? Young Thora is half of the land and half of the sea, has scales on her legs, purple feet, and a blowhole that squirts water on the top of her head. As the old Sea Shrew says, speaking destiny to Thora's mother, rather than practicality, "If she can live between worlds for ten years, this daughter...can live." But how? Her mermaid mother, well-intentioned, cannot do much. The answers lie in a village named Grimli—with a kindly and very tall man named Mr. Walters, a satisfying villain with the improbable name of Frooty de Mare, a foster-family, and three eccentric sisters with a past to reckon with. Thora's a delightful heroine with a quick spin to her thoughts, and an idiosyncratic way with language that is at first a little dizzying but quickly acquires its own charm. In their own quirky way, the adult allies in the story try to help, but Thora—in the grand tradition of fictional, if not literal, orphandom—is her own best hope. Just as well, since Frooty's machinations need a strong countering force and no one else seems able to take him on. Illustrated by the author in a series of black and white line drawings that pepper the text, this story combines a whimsical concept with appealing characters. It even contains some genuinely funny tongue-in-cheek intertextual references to contemporary children's fiction—a wry subtext that young readers might miss, even while it reinforces a sort of lateral-thinking humor that they will appreciate. Despite marching, perfectly clueless, right into the lion's den, Thora manages to put the baddies in their place with flair, and all ends as we only wish it could in real life. 2005,HarperCollins, Ages 8 to 12.