Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Helen Dunmore
For ages 12 and up
HarperCollins, 2008   ISBN: 978-0060818548

Sapphire and her brother Conor have spent their entire lives within sound and sight of the sea, and they love it dearly. Their feelings cannot help changing somewhat however when their father goes out in his boat one day and never comes back. Both of the children are somehow sure that he did not drown and that he is not dead.

A year after her father's disappearance Conor starts spending long periods of time away from home. Sapphy has no idea where it is that he is going until the day when she sees him sitting on a rock in their cove talking to a girl. When she follows Conor on his next sojourn to the cove, Sapphy discovers what Conor is really up to. She meets Faro, a Mer boy, and he takes her into Ingo, the sea world. Because she is with Faro, Sapphy finds that she able to breathe, and see, and hear underwater. Not only that, but she begins to forget her Air world and life. She even begins to forget Mum and Conor. When she finally comes out of the sea and returns home, she finds out she has been gone almost twenty-four hours.

After this, Ingo seems to tug at her heart all the time. Staying out of the water is almost more than she can bear. Sapphy and her brother come to learn from the local wise woman that both the children have Mer blood in them, and that it is possible that their father may have been unable to ignore the call of Ingo. Can Sapphy stay rooted to the land with her mother and brother or will her ties to the sea pull her out the waves?

This unique fantasy title takes a very different look at a very old story. Helen Dunmore not only explores Sapphy's struggle with who she is, but she also looks at her relationships with her brother, her mother, and her father. Then there is that often difficult relationship that man has with sea. Though many people love the sea, there is also that tendency to want to dominate it without really trying to understand, appreciate, and respect it. Using the Mer and Ingo itself as mouthpieces, Helen Dunmore speaks for the sea and its creatures.