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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

A Natural History of Mermaids by Emily Hawkins and Jessica Roux

The first thing to admire about this hardback book is the stunning cloth cover – it’s very classy! Opening the book, the endpapers are a true work of art, they would be divine as wallpaper in a children’s bedroom.

Inside the book is a treasure trove of material about mermaids, supposedly taken from a detailed field notebook by an intrepid (and fictional) explorer in 1872. Darcy Delamare disguised herself as a man to claim a place on board the (real-life) scientific expedition of the HMS Challenger. The book contains everything from historical sightings, their appearance, and the superstitions surrounding them.

There is much to admire about this book, with both the content and slightly old-worldly illustrations. It takes the reader on a voyage of discovery in the 1870s and life at sea. We learn the first mermaids come from writings of ancient Greece and Rome. There have been European sightings, as well as from the East Indies and the Artic. Are they mammals or fish? How do they breathe? What are the different varieties of Merfolk tails? What is the life cycle? How do they behave? Where do they live, and how do they interact with other creatures in the sea? This and much more is explored in this beautifully illustrated book.

A Natural History of Mermaids is a lovely book suitable for young and old, a book to keep and hand down the generations. It’s a keeper!

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Allen & Unwin


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