Sukey and the Mermaid
Sukey and the Mermaid
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Annotation: Unhappy with her life at home, Sukey receives kindness and wealth from Mama Jo the mermaid.
Genre: Fairy tales
Catalog Number: #289333
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Special Formats: Inventory Sale Inventory Sale
Publisher: Aladdin
Copyright Date: 1992
Edition Date: 1992
Illustrator: Pinkney, J. Brian,
Pages: 32
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-689-80718-X Perma-Bound: 0-7804-5251-8
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-689-80718-3 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-5251-0
Dewey: 398.21
LCCN: 90024559
Dimensions: 28 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
In a romantic folktale drawn from various African American traditions, a beautiful, brown-skinned, black-eyed mermaid saves a poor, unhappy girl. Sukey's step-pa's a bossy do-nothing man who drinks and works her too hard. When she cries for help, a mermaid hears her and takes her below the sea to a gentle place without time or pain. But Sukey longs to return to the world, even though hurt and hunger are never far away. In the neat ending, she gets all she wants: a loving husband, the mermaid's treasure, and her step-pa dead. San Souci's source note describes how he traced the rare tale of a black mermaid. His telling is vivid and immediate, casual and colloquial (How do, my lady. . . . Come into the water and cool off). Pinkney's brief artist's note describes his technique of working in scratchboard and oil pastels, which allows him to sculpt as well as draw the images. The bold, deeply colored pictures swirl with rhythmic lines in figures and landscape, cabin and ocean. The mermaid looks like a West African princess decked in gold. She's a powerful woman, and she helps make Sukey strong. (Reviewed Feb. 1, 1992)
Horn Book
Abused by her stepfather, Sukey finds succor through the magical intervention of a beautiful African-American mermaid, but, in the last analysis, it is not the mermaid's gifts but Sukey's own integrity which wins her freedom and love. The captivating retelling of a South Carolina story is a fine blending of scholarship and the storyteller's art, complemented by an outstanding visual interpretation.
Kirkus Reviews
Weary of the unreasonable demands of Mister Jones, her new stepfather, Sukey escapes to the water's edge, where she meets ``a beautiful, brown-skinned, black-eyed mermaid''—Mama Jo—who befriends and comforts her and each day gives her a gold coin. Mister Jones drinks up most of the money; eventually, he tries to capture the mermaid, who escapes and takes Sukey to her undersea kingdom. Homesick, Sukey bargains for a chance to go home and is also given a dowry and the promise of a fine husband, to be named Dembo. Wicked Mister Jones steals the dowry and kills Dembo; but Mama Jo appears one last time to bring him back to life. A careful note explains that this eventful, richly complex story was based on a folktale from the Sea Islands of South Carolina, as well as on Caribbean and West African sources. Pinkney's delicately tinted scratchboard illustrations are his best yet; the many fine lines swirl through the dramatic black ground, catching the sea's luminous glow and softening the sturdy figures with diaphanous garments. An unusually handsome presentation of an appealing tale. (Folklore/Picture book. 5-10)"
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-- From West Africa via the Caribbean to the Sea Islands off South Carolina's coast come the story fragments melded in this unusual, haunting tale. San Souci's eloquent prose, matched by Pinkney's handsome illustrations executed in scratchboard and oil pastel, tells the tale of a black girl's special relationship with a benevolent mermaid. As the arresting cover illustration suggests, Mama Jo is no ordinary water spirit. This fabulous creature, with opulent jewelry and golden combs in her sea-green hair, offers Sukey more than a gold coin at day's end. The time spent in the sea with the mermaid provides respite from the hardships of life with her mother and shiftless stepfather. Although the Cinderella theme is most apparent, there are references to many others. What provides this book with depth and richness, however, is the smooth transition from the mermaid's magical kingdom to the harsh reality of the girl's life on land. Sukey is a likable heroine, determined, clever, and compassionate. This is a realistic coming-of-age story, combined with fantasy. With current interest in and the demand for multicultural materials, this tale is a welcome addition to any folklore collection. --Martha Rosen, Edgewood School, Scarsdale, NY
Word Count: 2,109
Reading Level: 4.8
Interest Level: K-3
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.8 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 6244 / grade: Lower Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.1 / points:2.0 / quiz:Q11055
Lexile: 760L

A mermaid offers a young girl a magical escape in this lushly told and luminously illustrated Coretta Scott King Honor–winning picture book.

Sukey’s new step-pa is a mean, bossy man she calls “Mister Hard-Times.” He makes her work in his garden all day and Sukey’s ma doesn’t seem to care. One day, when her step-pa isn’t looking, Sukey takes her chance to run away to her secret hiding place by the sea.

There, she meets Mama Jo, a beautiful black mermaid. Mama Jo’s got a surprise for Sukey: a magical kingdom beneath the sea without time or pain. But there are also no people. Is it really better than the world above?

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