Take a Splash with Three Talented and Appealing Young Mermaids!
Secrets Beneath the Sea
by Janet Gurtler
Series: Mermaid Kingdom (Books 1 – 3)
Publication Date: March 1, 2015
Publisher: Capstone Young Readers
Like most 12-year-old girls, Shyanna, Rachel, and Cora deal with the daily dramas of growing up. Unlike most 12-year-old girls, they deal with it underwater as mermaids. The allure of life on land is a constant presence in the life of a mermaid, and friendships are tested with secrets, lies, and jealousy. The magical and mysterious world of merpeople is brought to life in Mermaid Kingdom. Dive in and get swept away!
Secrets Beneath the Sea is actually a compilation of the first three books in the Mermaid Kingdom series. (Book four, Shyanna’s Wish, is also available.) Author Janet Gurtler has done a nice job creating a trio of likeable twelve-year-old mermaids, and of rounding out their world with parents, friends, aquatic creatures, and even a King and Queen.
The Mermaid Kingdom is comprised of five smaller kingdoms, that of Neptunia being the one where our heroines reside. Though most of the action takes place here – at Walrus Waterpark, in the girls’ homes, at school, and at court – the reader is also treated to an occasional visit to other kingdoms, and along with one of the girls we even venture onto dry land. The world is given just enough detail to seem real, as are the characters, who are allowed to tell their own stories.
The first mermaid we meet is Shyanna Angler – an appropriate name because Shy suffers from acute stage fright. Through her we get to know her long-time best friend, Cora, and their new friend, Rachel. The plot of book one involves a singing competition, the Melody Pageant, and Shyanna’s efforts to overcome her fear of performing solo in public.
The second book is narrated by Rachel Marlin, a mermaid with a special past. As Shyanna had lost her father, Rachel is dealing with the loss of her mother. And what is of even more importance to her tale, she is determined to hide her unique heritage. She is half-human, on her mother’s side, a fact that created enormous problems for her in Caspian, the kingdom where she and her father used to live. After her father accepted the job of singing instructor to the Queen, Rachel was able to get a new start in Neptunia, but even in this happy kingdom she finds herself subject to prejudice at school. Add to this that she desperately misses her best friend, Owen, and we have one extremely unhappy mermaid who really needs the help of her new friends before she abandons everything she loves.
Cora Bass takes over the storytelling in the final book, where we get to meet her family and all her little siblings. Though she loves them to bits, her responsibilities, such as babysitting, never seem to end, and a compromise has to be found so she can try out for the Spirit Squad and compete in the prestigious Mermaid Kingdom Festival. When one of our three mermaids fails to make the squad – thanks to mean mergirl Regina – Cora decides it’s up to her to try to set things right.
Several threads run through all three books, which makes for continued character development and a satisfying continuity. Each story demonstrates various aspects of friendship – support, loyalty, consideration, love – and the solutions to the problems the girls encounter are found with the aid of others outside their circle, showing girls that it’s not just your besties that can be kind, fair, and helpful.
The first two pages of the book include a section called the “Mermaid Life”. Besides providing a quick overview of life in the Mermaid Kingdom, these six paragraphs detail the important physical laws that govern when young mermaids will get their legs, how long they may walk on land (and the consequences should they exceed those limits), and what happens if they reveal their true nature. It’s a handy reference, especially as all the rules eventually come into play and one might wish to flip back and check the specific wording of a regulation or warning. After the conclusion of Cora’s story, there’s a one page summary of the “Legend of Mermaids” that briefly mentions the origins of the mermaid myth. This summary is taken from another Capstone Press book, The Girls’ Guide to Mermaids, that interested kids might want to check out.
The full-page, full-color illustrations by Katie Wood are outstanding! Wisely, the publisher saw fit to include an abundance of them as they enhance the reading experience like nothing else could. It is always a delight to turn the page and see another drawing of our mermaids in action. The book is beautiful in an electronic format, but the hardback version is truly a work of art. There are few books in any genre these days that I would call collectable; Secrets Beneath the Sea is definitely one!
This is a pleasant series, with life lessons that are taught in a clear and natural way, and with adventures and descriptions that should stimulate a young girl’s imagination. The characters are interesting and easy to root for, and though each book is entire in itself, the overall plot lines are open enough that kids in the target age group (7 to 10) should eagerly look forward to reading more about their favorite mermaids in the Mermaid Kingdom.
— Jennifer Michelle
4 of 5 Hearts. Take a Splash with Three Talented and Appealing Young Mermaids!
Secrets Beneath the Sea is a fun collection of three stories, each leading into the next, though told by a different, likeable mermaid. Girls on land will enjoy watching the trio of smart and kind mergirls as they tackle and surmount challenges that are not so much different from those they have to confront in their everyday lives above the sea.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Capstone Young Readers and NetGalley for allowing me access to the title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”