Miri Attwater and the Ocean’s Secret is a cute story about a girl who learns she’s actually a mermaid princess. She’s going to spend her summer in the merworld and she has so many things to learn, all while keeping it secret that she grew up among the “leggers.”
I know this is a terrible pun, but this really is a “fish out of water” story—Miri is caught between two worlds and she doesn’t quite fit in either place. Kids who have moved or changed schools will probably identify a lot with the things Miri deals with.
In many ways the book very much reads more like an introduction than a full story. There are major story elements hinted at that aren’t resolved, for instance. At the end the author mentions an upcoming sequel, as well as asking the reader to review the book in online bookstores and recommend the book to others. There’s also a link to the website which has some interesting information (excerpts, newsletter, blog from the author, plus some other fun stuff)—Miri Attwater is definitely intended to be a series and it’s working on building its audience. As the start to an early middle grade series, this one looks promising to me.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
Miri knows she’s adopted—her situation is a bit unusual because she knows her birth mother is her adopted mother’s sister and Miri looks a lot like her adopted mother. She thinks it’s a little strange that she’s never met her birth mother, but she’s happy in her family and doesn’t dwell on it much. She knows several other kids who are adopted, including Wendy who was adopted from China.
When Miri does meet her birth mother, it’s rather anti-climactic—partially because the relationship needs to be kept secret for reasons we don’t learn in this book. But Miri has already decided that she has a mother (her adopted mother) and that she doesn’t need anything more. For the most part, that’s enough for her. She’s not sure what she’d do with this second mom anyway.
Miri had no idea mermaids were real, let alone that she was one. While this may seem like a pretty big secret to keep, the reasoning makes perfect sense to me as a parent—you can’t entrust a chatty child with a major secret and have any hope that it will stay secret. Then time kind of gets away from Miri’s parents until it’s almost too late and they have to tell her rather abruptly.
However, the fact that they neglected to tell her that she would be spending the summer in the merworld and they didn’t adequately prepare her for that experience—that one was harder for me to take. They really owed the poor girl a better explanation before sending her off with a stranger!
The first part of the story is in our world where Miri is hanging out at an aquarium/water park with her friends Catherine and Wendy. Catherine obviously knows Miri really well and accepts all her quirks without question. She seems like a very good friend. Wendy, on the other hand, is domineering and critical. She pressures Miri into situations that Miri is uncomfortable with. She continually talks about how great summer camp is going to be, even though she knows Miri is upset that she can’t go. You have to wonder why Miri continues to hang out with Wendy, but I think it’s a situation a lot of kids will identify with.
Miri’s adopted parents are loving to her and each other. We learn that her mother left behind her merfamily—was essentially disowned—in order to be with the human she loves. I hope we’ll hear a bit more about this history in future books. The merking died having never accepted his daughter’s choice.
Fish & Ocean Phobias
Miri is totally creeped out by swimming in lakes or oceans—the idea that there are slimy things living and swimming there is just a bit much for her to handle. She’s creeped out by fish and sharks in the aquarium. She’s learning to get over that (good thing, seeing as she’s spending the summer in the ocean) but it’s taking some work. These are fairly common phobias—the way it’s handled, I don’t think the story will bother kids who might share these phobias.
This is a good story for kids ages 8 to maybe 11 or so—precocious 7 year olds would probably enjoy it as well. It’s great for girls who have already read all the Rainbow Fairy and My Sister the Vampire books, although since there’s only the one book and it’s obviously only the start of Miri’s story, they may be clamoring for a sequel that doesn’t exist yet.
Note: This book is currently available only as an ebook.
Disclaimer: The author provided me with a copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Miri Attwater and the Ocean’s Secret by E.S. Ivy
Published in 2012 by Phyta Books for Young Readers
First in a series, followed by Miri Attwater and All That Glitters
Read on my Kindle
For more information on the series, check out the website.