Author & Illustrator:Kitty Leech

Publisher: The Home Press

ISBN: 978-0-9849133-0-5

It took a while to catch a girl to help me review A Mermaid Picnic. At the end of their summer holidays girls would rather be mermaids than pretend to be mermaids. The night before school started I placed this lovely paperback book on the bed beside Maya, who is 7 years old, and told her I would read it to her after I brushed my teeth. By the time I got back she had read it herself. “What did you like best?” I asked. “I liked when Emily had the idea for a mermaid picnic,” she answered. I agree. This book is all about the magic in our brains that allows us to adjust to circumstances beyond our control, like when it rains and spoils our outdoor plans. Emily has to rethink how she will spend the last day at the shore with her friends Alison and Ana.

As a grandmother who has read about ten million children’s books (just a guess), I appreciate Kitty Leech for her thoughtful storytelling, letting the child solve the problem and come up with starfish and jellyfish sandwiches on seaweed (lettuce). The mother suggests sand tarts for dessert, a recipe many of us have in an old-fashioned church cookbook. The recipe is included.

We didn’t test the recipe, as we have tooth issues, but it did not matter. What makes this story come to life is the author’s illustrations rendered in watercolors with Cape May raindrops! There is a dreamy quality about them, but the four girls each have a distinctive face, and the pictures contain realistic details that are fun to study. Leech does great textures: wicker chairs, curly hair, raindrops on windows. The colors are happy. This I welcome, as I have noticed a trend favoring silly, gloomy and even scary illustrations in recent children’s books. Happy is good. It’s especially good for a child who might have silly, gloomy and scary things in real life.

At the end of The Mermaid Picnic are lyrics by Ben Wittman. They tell us that “The Mermaid Girls” is a song for “serious fun.” I would have liked the CD to go with this book, but perhaps the melody is best supplied by the girls who read this book. I know Maya will do her part.

Kitty Leech is a costume designer and illustrator. She has worked on off-Broadway, regional and international theater productions. She teaches Costume Design and Costume History at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Her own sketches have been exhibited in New York City and beyond. She has produced four other books that feature “The Dollies.”

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