Merchaps, by Pippa Goodhart

Over twenty years ago, back in the last millennium, I wrote a story for the Blue Banana series of illustrated early reader books. It was about a boy called Toby who finds a mermaid stranded in a rockpool. He takes her home and tries to make her happy. But, although she enjoys playing with Toby and his sisters, the mermaid remains 'happy sad' because she also misses her home. So Toby takes her back to the sea, and they each go back to their own family and home. Happy Sad was beautifully illustrated by Stephen Lambert. I have one of the original pictures in the main room in my house.

Over many school visits with young children over many years, Happy Sad proved to be one of those books that quietened children, hushing as they listened more and more intently. And, at the end of a reading, they’d be eager to discuss whether or not they would take the mermaid back to the sea, and whether she might come back to visit Toby, or Toby swim down to visit her family. And how do they feel when they go and stay at another house with different people? Are they, perhaps, 'happy sad' when doing sleepovers? Lots of talk!

There had been discussion with the publishing people querying whether or not I should change my boy, Toby, for a girl. At the time it was an oddity to have a story about a boy and a mermaid, rather than a girl. That's why I wanted to stick with it. But not once in all those years since publication has any child ever said that they thought the story should have been about a girl. And, at last, the grown-ups seem to be catching up! 

Here is award-winning joyful, gorgeous Julian And The Mermaid, written and illustrated by Jessica Love, about a boy who wants to be a mermaid. 


We have the mermen wittily illustrated by David Roberts for Eleanor Cullen’s A Match For A Mermaid.


And a beautiful love story between a merman and a fisherman in Ian Eagleton and James Mayhew’s Nen And The Lonely Fisherman.


And I’m delighted to say that Happy Sad is also back in bookshops and libraries, slightly updated and given gloriously watery new illustrations by Augusta Kirkwood. 


If only we could all grow a strong scaly tail, be able to breath in water, and dive deep deep into the sea to cool off just now! 

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