You know that scene in Home Alone when Kevin reacts to Harry burning his hand on the door knob and goes flying into the snow?
The actual noises I made reading this book.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not as bad about the Little Mermaid as I am about Cinderella. Disney’s The Little Mermaid is very special to my childhood, Alan Menken and Howard Ashman were the dream musical team of the Disney Renaissance and Part of Your World is still possibly the best Disney Princess solo ever and I still give it some welly singing along to but my goodness it’s not good messages for young girls is it?
I think that we all know we’ve hit a point of no return when we react to Ariel’s mooning over the statue of Eric and retorts ‘I’m 16 years old I’m not a child’ with ‘Yea sorry you are, it’s a crush honey, there are literally more mermen in the sea that won’t ask you to give up your culture and yes your dad is being a bit of a idiot about it but really this is not a good idea!!’
The whole Hans Christian Anderson story whether it intends to or not basically warns about how it’s a bad idea throwing your life, ambitions, culture and family away on the first guy you meet, because well, not to sound bad but yeah; boys. The fairy tale Prince is like oh you’re cute but this one’s a Princess and she’s got huge… tracts of land.
Geraldine McCaughrean not only honours the original story where the Prince does marry the Princess, not the mermaid (here called Delphine), but also honours the excruciating pain on walking and the deal that her sisters make to save her!!! Trading their hair for a magicked knife that will undo the Curse if she kills the Prince.
Now like the proper tale, Delphine doesn’t kill the Prince because it would be too cruel BUT instead of turning into sea foam, we get something else (no spoilers)… not perfect BUT we are dealing with a fairy tale here and oh my goodness so So SO much better than the Disney give up your entire self for a man schtick.
And the art!!! Oh my goodness the art is stunning. With gorgeous inky seascapes and layered silhouette illustrations by Laura Barrett this is beautiful and evocative and we don’t need to know what the Little Mermaid looks like to feel and resonate with her because the silhouettes communicates the emotions necessary.
I want more. I want more retellings like this with this exquisite art!!
The Little Mermaid by Geraldine McCaughrean and Laura Barrett is published by Hachette.