by Alex Field illustrated by Owen Swan
Reviewed by Maria Parenti-Baldey
Happily, Ever After, The Little Mermaid is a retold story. It’s about Ariel, the little mermaid, who longed to see the world above. In this story Ariel is 14 going on 15 which makes it an excellent resource for children as they progress through the year levels. It segues well to open-up discussion about stereotypes and relationships.
It has the familiar love story tropes: she meets prince, she bargains with Sea Witch, she’s still unable to communicate with prince, her father the Sea King persuades Sea Witch to return Ariel’s voice, they live happily ever after. This appears simplistic for younger readers and perhaps unrealistic for older readers. The value of this book is when it’s compared with contemporary stories. This guides students to make informed decisions about peer pressure and adolescence.
The story starts with the reader meeting Ariel and her sisters in their peaceful ocean home as would be expected, but then it infers that Ariel’s 15-year-old sisters, sitting on the rocks, could be beguiling *sirens, ‘…sang to ships. Humans had never heard such sweet voices.’ In the ensuing scenes, Ariel explores the world above. The illustrator Owen Swan, lures Ariel towards a mesmerising blue night sky with cascading fireworks reflected on the ocean surface. As she gazes up, she can’t take her eyes off the prince on-board The Tall Ship, signalling her blossoming of age and first encounter with the outside world. Her maturing is revealed in the following single page layouts with stark white backgrounds, far from the first three double-page spread of tranquil subdued sea greens.
Swan’s interpretation of Ariel’s safe solitary world below is breathtaking with its coral towers tinged red-pinks from the sun setting above. After this, Ariel’s human encounter is celebrated with an iridescent-blue ocean scene. Then the story changes to excessive use of white space and sharper close-up images of characters, and like the text, its tone becomes direct and to the point.
Children will enjoy this mermaid’s tale, and more so its merit is as a compare and contrast for students.
* in Greek Mythology, Sirens sang, on the rocks, luring men to their death.
Happily Ever After: The Little Mermaid by Alex Field illustrated by Owen Swan
New Frontier Publishing, hardback 24.99 ISBN 78-1-925059-81-6