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The Selkie Girl Hardcover – 1 Oct 1986

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Strange things may happen here 21 Mar. 2005
By E. R. Bird - Published on
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. Says the first sentence in the book, "The island rise green out of the sea, where the waves foam over the grey rocks, and strange things may happen there". The fact that Cooper has remained faithful to the whole naked chick part of the tale is also impressive. Other authors might have shied away or said the ladies were wearing seaweed garments or some such thing. The tale is a classic one, one told for centuries and not to be tampered with. So yes, this is a book about a man basically forcing someone to be his wife. Therefore, when she escapes back to the sea at the end, you're not particularly sad about it. Some kids reading the book may be a bit perturbed, but picture books should engage children as much as possible.

It is a bit of a pity that Warwick Hutton's illustrations don't convey the mystery of the story particularly well. His watercolors are lovely and majestic, but not particularly detailed. I cannot help but think that the book's editor could have located a more appropriate illustrator somewhere. Ah well. In the end it's the story that matters, and this one is truly lovely. Barbaric, perhaps. But lovely. For a great Irish tale that doesn't necessarily involve leprechauns, try "The Selkie Girl" on for size.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The loss, the finding of the authentic self. 3 Feb. 2002
By Turtle - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was amazing to me the first time I read it and continues to touch me 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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A beautifully told folktale, with lovely illustrations 24 July 2008
By Tracy Marks - Published on
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."
Beautifully written story 15 Jan. 2012
By JD - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This story was a favorite of my children when they were younger. I wanted to find it for my grandchildren and I was very happy when I found it on Amazon. This story is so well written and you can really identify with the characters and the love for his sealwife. When she returns to the sea, leaving her land-children behind, it is very emotional. Only a good author can do that to a reader. I recommend this book to anyone who has elementary school-aged children.
One of the best 17 Jan. 2014
By Ann V. Norton - Published on
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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