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Keeper Hardcover – May 18, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 4-7 Ten-year-old Keeper believes in wishes and magic, and why shouldn't she? Her mother, gone for the last seven years, is a mermaid, after all! So on the day of the Blue Moon, when everything she does has a disastrous result, Keeper knows her only option is to row out past the sandbar to the treacherous open water of the Gulf of Mexico, accompanied by BD (Best Dog) and Captain the seagull, and hope her mermaid mama can tell her how to fix things. Keeper is funny, feisty, at times older than her years, and often so stubborn that readers will have to shake their heads. In other words, quite realistic. The adults in the story are beautifully drawn, and absolutely believable, and the Gulf Coast setting is practically a character itself. The tender romance between two teenaged boys years earlier is hinted at, and it is sensitively portrayed, as is the romance between Keeper's guardian, Signe, and the damaged former soldier, Dogie. Filled with love, wild adventure, family drama, and even a touch of true fantasy, this is a deeply satisfying tale. Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library
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Rare is the middle-grade book with an epigraph from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, but that famous poem's sense of longing is well suited to this thoughtful story. Ten-year-old Keeper lives on the Texas coast with her guardian and a small, close community of people and animals, who have all been looking forward to the next blue moon and the traditions and happiness they expect will come with it. Instead, the community experiences a string of disappointing events, and Keeper, feeling responsible, sails away to find her birth mother, whom she believes is a mermaid capable of making everything right. After being tossed about by the sea, Keeper makes it safely back to shore, though any growth in her wisdom and awareness that occurs during the story's 24-hour span is left unclear. Occasional, hazy illustrations add to the mythical mood. A complex plot structure, varying points of view, subtle symbolism, and allusions to classics, from Lewis Carroll's Alice stories to old sea legends, make for a literary exploration of the search for love and meaning that will absorb and reward patient, thoughtful readers. Grades 4-7. --Andrew Medlar
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With rich characters, the story grips the reader. Will she survive the watery search for her mother? Will she ever realize that she really has it pretty good?
The real magic comes from Signe, who recognizes the needs of others and is able to fulfill those needs without too much sacrifice of herself. She teaches Keeper to be practical, and Keeper does a lot of planning for her journey. Keeper works for their next-door neighbor, Dogie, scraping and re-waxing surf boards. Dogie casts a protective eye over the little family. He's loved Signe for a long time. Keeper is also protected by a dog named BD (Best Dog), a seagull named Captain, a grumpy cat named Sinbad, and Mr. Beauchamp, a neighbor. We even get to hear BD's thoughts.
The mystical nature of Keeper's beliefs is one of the things that makes this a unique story. Most kids, and many adults, feel they can make events happen with one act. For example, someone got hurt because you wished that person ill. Throw in a mermaid or two, and you have Keeper.
The illustrations add to the magic.
I would recommend this for fifth grade and up, though eighth grade might be the ideal age. Younger children will sail right past some of the social issues, while older ones (even high school students) will appreciate the romance elements.