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The Selkie Girl Hardcover – October 1, 1986


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 and up
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (October 1, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689503903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689503900
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 8.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #517,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The illustrious author and artist have created a haunting version of the Scottish folktale about the selkie. Newbery Medalist Cooper tells the story of a man who falls in love with a woman; she becomes a seal as she swims away. A year later, he steals her sealskin so she cannot leave and makes her his bride. The tale focuses on the longing of the selkie, Mairi, a "wild creature" who goes "back to the wild, in the end." When Mairi accidentally finds out where her husband hid her sealskin, she tells her children she must leave them because she also has children in the sea. Her daughter understands, saying, "You must go to them. It's their turn." The lyrical text weaves a tale of sweeping dimension; this is storytelling at its finest. Particularly lovely are Hutton's sensitive and muted watercolors, which successfully capture the mood evoked by the book's opening and closing sentence: "The islands rise green out of the sea, where the waves roam over the grey rocks, and strange things may happen there."
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 3 Both Mordicai Gerstein (The Seal Mother Dial, 1986) and Susan Cooper have retold the folktale of the Selkie who is forced to live among mortals. In Cooper's version, Donallan falls in love with one of three beautiful naked selkie-maidens that he sees sitting on the rocks. Stealing her sealskin so that she cannot return to the sea, he marries her. Although she bears his five children, whom she loves deeply, she longs for her home and her family in the sea. At last she learns where her skin is hidden and, putting it on, dives joyously into the waves. But every year, Donallan and his children go down to the sea and when they return, there is "a look on their faces like sunlight." Cooper retells this ancient folktale from the coastal regions of Ireland and Scotland in a simple, direct storybook style, which, while lacking some of the exquisite beauty and flowing language of an Eva LaGalliene, still captures enough of the essence to appeal to young readers. Hutton's watercolors match and extend Cooper's narrative in the best traditional "picture story book" fashion, and if both fall slightly short of the haunting and timeless quality possible in such a tale, they still create a story to capture and hold the young. Yet Gerstein's book, grounded in familial love, is the more appealing version. Constance A. Mellon, Department of Library & Information Studies, East Carolina University , Greenville, N.C.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Susan Cooper is best known for her acclaimed five-book fantasy sequence "The Dark is Rising," which won a Newbery Medal, a Newbery Honor Award, and two Carnegie Honor Awards. Born in England in 1935, she became a reporter and feature writer for the London Sunday Times--her first boss was James Bond creator Ian Fleming--before moving to the United States in 1963. Her first novels were "Mandrake" and the autobiographical "Dawn of Fear," followed by the complete Dark is Rising sequence (Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree). The sequence, deeply rooted in the rich heritage of Arthurian legend and Celtic mythology, is a classic work of children's literature, still in print after 40 years. Cooper went on to write other well-received children's novels, including "Seaward," "The Boggart" and its sequel "The Boggart and the Monster," "Green Boy," "King of Shadows," and "Victory," as well as several picture books for young readers with illustrators such as Ashley Bryan and Warwick Hutton. She has also written books for adults, as well as plays and Emmy-nominated screenplays (some in collaboration with her second husband, the actor Hume Cronyn). Recent books include the collaborative project "The Exquisite Corpse Adventure" and her biography of Jack Langstaff titled "The Magic Maker." Her latest young adult novel is "Ghost Hawk." Ms. Cooper lives in Marshfield MA. Visit her on Facebook or on her website at www.thelostland.com.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mermaids get all the good press. Heck, you can't throw a dart in a crowded library without hitting five or six children's books all dedicated to those fishy sea ladies. But what about selkie women? When do they get their due? Few books about selkies actually make them out to be women, as it happens. The men get, "A Stranger Came Ashore" and "Island of the Aunts", for example. Female selkies appear in "Daughter of the Sea", but not much else. So it was with great joy that I located not only a selkie book starring a woman, but a picture book at that. "The Selkie Girl" is your classic tale of abduction, male dominance, and naked women. Everything a picture book could aspire to. It is written by children's literature demi-god Susan Cooper (known best for her "The Dark Is Rising" stories), and illustrated by fellow Brit Warwick Hutton. It is a lovely little work.

Donallan lives alone by the sea with his cat and his dog and his sheep. It's a lonely life and Donallan longs for some company. One day, while scrounging for seaweed, he is enchanted by the song of three lovely naked women singing on a nearby rock. When he tries to investigate, however, they dive into the waves and become seals or selkies. An elderly man living near Donallan tells the young man how to catch one of the women as his bride. He must come on the same day one year from now and before the woman can grab it, steal her seal skin. Then she'll be bound to follow Donallan home. He does, she does, and they have five kids. Until, one day, their youngest son catches his father removing a lovely long sealskin from a mysterious brick behind their house...

Cooper, quite frankly, should do more picture books. This particular one contains all her lovely turns of phrase and particular lilts.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Turtle on February 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was amazing to me the first time I read it and continues to touch me deeply....so much so that I just spent $90. for an old used copy so that I could own it and return to it again and again. It is the story of all women, women who are taken from their true selves to serve others, in places that are foreign to their souls. And, of course, the story of her return. A children's book, but one that speaks to all ages. Magical. Timeless. I have heard that this story has been told in many languages for many hundreds of years. I would welcome any information that anyone has about this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tracy M VINE VOICE on July 23, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this retelling of this magical Scottish folktale, Mordicai Gerstein and Susan Cooper tell of the Selkie (maiden of the sea) who is compelled to live among mortals. When Donallan sees a beautiful naked selkie on the rocks, he falls in love with her and steals her sealskin so she can no longer live in the sea. He marries her, and she bears him five children. But she longs for her sea home and family. At last she finds her skin, and is able to return to the sea. This lovely book will appeal to all ages - 3-adult. A Publishers Weekly review said of it, "The lyrical text weaves a tale of sweeping dimension; this is storytelling at its finest. Particularly lovely are Hutton's sensitive and muted watercolors."
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By Brenda Y. on February 26, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really liked the story of the selkie girl. I named my daughter Selkie. she is now 4yrs and She is enjoying the story especially when they turn back to seals.
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By Ann V. Norton on January 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Susan Cooper's spare, lyrical language and beautiful watercolor illustrations bring this haunting legend to life. It's bittersweet, but children will be gladdened by its portrait of a mother who loves all her children, "five on the land and five in the sea."
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