The origin of the legend of the selkie is an oddity to me. What was it about the seals of the British Isles that struck islanders as mysterious and mildly frightening? I can understand why they were sometimes mistaken for humans and mermaids. In the water a seal is as lithe and graceful as it is bulky and sluggish on land. Still, there have been a fair amount of selkie tales that place the mysterious creatures firmly into the realm of the creepy. From Mollie Hunter's dark, "A Stranger Came Ashore" to Eve Ibbotson's light-hearted but sometimes dour, "Island of the Aunts", these wondrous creatures have inspired a great number of children's authors to weave together tales of the selkies of the deep. With "Daughter of the Sea", author Berlie Doherty strives to do the same.
Jannet and Munroe were not meant to find the sleeping babe floating between the rocks of the skerries. But find the child they did, and in their childless state the dearest wish of their hearts has come true. They've been given a daughter of their own to raise and love. Watching enviously from her beachside home, indigent Eilean o da Freya watches the gift that should have been hers as the child grows and learns. Eilean understands exactly what little Gioga (as her parents have named her) is and she will use this knowledge carefully in the future. Meanwhile, mysterious creatures from the deep are preparing to take the girl back with them. If Jannet and Munroe resist, they may find themselves in a deeper muddle than they ever could have imagined.
Doherty has penned a rather classic tale. "Daughter of the Sea" follows in the tradition of all those classic fairy tales about children that don't quite belong. The old standby of the barren couple who want to raise a kid of their own is in everything from ancient Norse myths to classic Brothers Grimm tales. In this particular case, "Daughter of the Sea" is mightily similar to Eloise McGraw's, "The Moorchild". In both books you have young daughters that are a little different from everyone else and feel drawn to mysterious beings they want to understand. In the case of this book, Gioga is a little different from your average heroine. She's so drawn to the sea that she can barely pay attention to the people who love her. You're not certain how or who to root for in this tale, but it's fairly clear that the moral of the story is that you shouldn't prevent your children from being who they are rather than who you want them to be.
Unfortunately, "Daughter of the Sea" isn't particularly original. It's definitely written well enough, don't get me wrong. And it also makes for a relatively quick read for kids. But the story doesn't break any new ground. The magic found here could just as easily be found in any classic selkie folktale. Even the conclusion is matter-of-fact and predictable. "Daughter of the Sea" is a nice kind of Intro-to-adapted-folktales. Yet if you're looking for something gripping, original, and a lot of fun then this would not be my first recommendation. Select any of the other books I've mentioned if you like. Read "Daughter of the Sea" only if you're interested in the cannon of complete selkie children's fiction.