Reviews for Keeper

Booklist Reviews 2010 June #1
Rare is the middle-grade book with an epigraph from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, but that famous poem's sense of longing is well suited to this thoughtful story. Ten-year-old Keeper lives on the Texas coast with her guardian and a small, close community of people and animals, who have all been looking forward to the next blue moon and the traditions and happiness they expect will come with it. Instead, the community experiences a string of disappointing events, and Keeper, feeling responsible, sails away to find her birth mother, whom she believes is a mermaid capable of making everything right. After being tossed about by the sea, Keeper makes it safely back to shore, though any growth in her wisdom and awareness that occurs during the story's 24-hour span is left unclear. Occasional, hazy illustrations add to the mythical mood. A complex plot structure, varying points of view, subtle symbolism, and allusions to classics, from Lewis Carroll's Alice stories to old sea legends, make for a literary exploration of the search for love and meaning that will absorb and reward patient, thoughtful readers. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Spring
Ten-year-old Keeper "borrows" a boat to search for her (possibly) mermaid mama. Appelt's haunting, wistful novel alternates between Keeper's travails on the boat and flashbacks that tease out her past. Folkloric elements and magic realism are beautifully integrated into this tale of a girl slowly learning the truth about herself. Hall's shadowy, atmospheric mixed-media illustrations leave room for readers' imaginations to flow. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2010 #5
On "blue moon day," when the crabs in her kitchen plead for help, what's a (possibly) half-mermaid girl to do? The answer is clear to ten-year-old Keeper: set them free, even though it means wrecking the crab gumbo lovingly prepared by her guardian Signe. Having ruined the dinner -- and the day -- Keeper "borrows" a boat and, accompanied by her trusty dog BD, sets off in the dead of night to search for her long-lost mermaid mama. Appelt's haunting, wistful novel alternates between Keeper's travails on the boat and flashbacks that tease out her past, describing everyone she loves. There's gentle surf-shop owner Dogie, whose tour of duty resulted in a stutter (except when he sings); quiet gardener and grandfather figure Mr. Beauchamp; and Signe herself, the only mother Keeper has ever really known. In addition, dogs, a cat, and a charismatic seagull -- not to mention some manatees, stingrays, and a merman -- play integral roles. Appelt beautifully integrates folkloric elements and magic realism into her tale of a girl slowly learning the truth about herself. The story's pacing, like the tide that alternately threatens and aids Keeper, is changeable; terse, laconic chapters (some just once sentence long) heighten tension, while longer, lyrical, more meandering sections reflect the laid-back lifestyle of the main characters. Shadowy, atmospheric mixed-media illustrations hint at the story's coastal Texas setting while leaving room for readers' imaginations to flow. elissa gershowitz Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 May #1
On a day when everything goes wrong, a little girl relies on the magic of the blue moon to turn things around. Since her mother swam away seven years ago, ten-year-old Keeper has lived happily with Signe on a remote slice of Texas coast, convinced that her mother's a mermaid. Keeper's waited all summer for the blue moon, when Signe will make blue moon gumbo, their friend Dogie will propose to Signe and their elderly neighbor's night-blooming cereus will flower. But when she accidentally spoils everything, Keeper sets out under the blue moon in a small boat, determined to row across dangerous Gulf waters to find her mother. While the action occurs in a single day, Appelt relies on flashbacks to flesh out her diverse human, animal and mythical characters. Deftly spinning together mermaid lore, local legend and natural history, this stunning tale proves "every landscape has its magical beings," and the most unlikely ones can form a perfect family. Hall's black-and-white illustrations lend perspective and immediacy. Beautiful and evocative--an absolute "keeper." (author's note) (Fiction. 8-10) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 May #1

When you're 10 years old and you've had a really bad day, you look for your mother. That's what Keeper is doing--only Keeper believes her mother, who left when she was three, is a mermaid, so her plan involves getting a rowboat out into the sea late that night. And because Keeper has let down Signe, her guardian; Dogie, her best friend/employer; and even Mr. Beauchamp, her surrogate grandfather, she has to carry out that plan alone. Amid scattered pieces of August's dreamlike spot art, Appelt unfurls Keeper's magical story slowly, looking back over Keeper's day and forward to her longed-for reunion with the mother. As in her Newbery Honor-winning The Underneath, the point of view shifts between characters human, animal, and otherwise, but with less of the precocity that sometimes encumbered its predecessor. Texas's Gulf Coast, alive with Cajun spice and superstition, provides a mysterious haven for them all. A narrative thread based on a tender love story between two teenage boys may draw controversy, but Appelt masterfully balances themes of loss and renewal and demonstrates that magic works in unexpected ways. In so doing, she has written another keeper. Ages 8-12. (May)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 July

Gr 4-7--Ten-year-old Keeper believes in wishes and magic, and why shouldn't she? Her mother, gone for the last seven years, is a mermaid, after all! So on the day of the Blue Moon, when everything she does has a disastrous result, Keeper knows her only option is to row out past the sandbar to the treacherous open water of the Gulf of Mexico, accompanied by BD (Best Dog) and Captain the seagull, and hope her mermaid mama can tell her how to fix things. Keeper is funny, feisty, at times older than her years, and often so stubborn that readers will have to shake their heads. In other words, quite realistic. The adults in the story are beautifully drawn, and absolutely believable, and the Gulf Coast setting is practically a character itself. The tender romance between two teenaged boys years earlier is hinted at, and it is sensitively portrayed, as is the romance between Keeper's guardian, Signe, and the damaged former soldier, Dogie. Filled with love, wild adventure, family drama, and even a touch of true fantasy, this is a deeply satisfying tale.--Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library

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