July 24, 2016


I'm digging into my archives a wee bit because I always find myself coming back to this book in some way, and I've never talked about it here. The Mermaid's Shoes by Sanne te Loo is the story of a girl named Mia and her search for belonging. One day Mia finds a pair of flippers at the beach that she believes are mermaid shoes. She wears them everywhere she goes, even when she sleeps, and more than anything new she just wants to get back to the water. But the ocean is much to far for her to get to on her bike, so Mia sets out to find herself the nearest body of water to inhabit.

Mia's imagination is vast, and she approaches her problem with an air of independence and perseverance, which is perfectly reflected in the illustrations. Te Loo's watercolors are rich and vibrant, and, of course, the perfect medium for illustrating a mermaid story. The varied scenarios Mia concocts give te Loo a chance to experiment with a wide range of colors schemes, focusing strongly on different colors for each spread. And it's fun to watch everything in the illustrations transform into something reminiscent of the sea: the fabrics in Mia's purse look like tentacles, and the only store interiors we see as she rides around on her bike are fish places. It's a nice touch.

I was a little disappointed in the last spread, which features a wordless "screen shot" of a website page with photos of children around the world in mermaid costumes. It's still a watercolor illustration, but it brings in this whole other layer to the story that I don't think it needs. I appreciated the timelessness of the illustrations, and this spread very clearly places this book in today's world and pulls us out of the main narrative for no real reason. When looked at through an isolated lens and apart from the main narrative, though, the illustrations on this page are pretty adorable. It's fun to see te Loo get creative with how other people dress up like mermaids.

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