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Review of The Tail Of The SeaWitch

By Wendy Maree Peterson

Reviewed by: Renée Faucher

Publisher: Twighlight Times Books
Publication: September 2002
Genre: Children’s/YA Fantasy
Format: Ebook
ISBN: 1-931201-18-8

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In the “Tail of the Sea Witch” by Wendy Maree Peterson, Marina is an eleven-year-old girl who lives on the north coast of Australia. She is a very whimsical pre-teen who names her bicycle “Sir Rustalot” and dreams of mermaids…”The Tail of the Sea Witch” begins as Marina narrates the story of her close friendship with a sea witch, who had green eyes and roseamberine hair, named Madame Witche.

Madame Witche is a reclusive woman who lives alone on a houseboat in a private lagoon. The people in the area know of her and gossip about whether she is a witch or simply a hermit. Marina decides to find out and ventures in a small rubber dinghy to spy on the woman and determine if she is a real witch. Soon after Marina lands on the beach, of what seems to be a magical lagoon, she is greeted by Madame and Tongue-tied, the dog. From that moment, Marina is irrevocably drawn to this woman as a positive influence in her life.

Marina acts like a detective who is simply looking for evidence to support a theory: the theory that Madame is a sea witch or mermaid. She finds many clues: “The Sea Witche” is the name of the houseboat; the woman’s name is Madame Witche; she lives with special animals like a black Labrador, named Tongue-tied, a Fennec Fox, named Louis, and a cockatoo, named Captain. These animals are her family and the dog, in particular, seems very special. Tongue-tied appears to understand English like a person.

On her houseboat, Madama has many costumes and a mermaid tail. Madame claims to be an artist and an actor who played in children’s pantomime productions of The Little Mermaid “all around the world” (11). However, Marina does not believe her and is certain that Madame is really a mermaid.

Marina visits Madame every Saturday and a mentor-bond develops between the woman and girl. Madame teaches Marina about respect for all living creatures since “plants are people too” and she says, “Don’t you think all creatures should live together as friends, sharing their uniqueness and their wisdom?” (35). Madame also adds, “If only people realised how fragile the creatures of the world are. . .If the creatures of the land and the sea are driven to extinction, all the magic they bring to people will be lost forever” (36).

Madame also shows Marina that she is beautiful-something that Marina never conceived before. In exchange, the girl helps Madame recapture her happiness and zest for life.

Peterson succeeds to entertain even the adult reader. The book seems perfect for the age group that matches that of the main character: eleven. However, more character development and depth of plot would be necessary for today’s “young adult” reader. Most young adults beyond the age of fourteen would probably want a more complex plot.

Overall, “Tail of the Sea Witch” is a touching story that depicts the age before we all lose our sense of wonder and appreciation for magic in the natural world. This is a coming of age story in certain ways…not a coming of age of in regards to sexuality and adulthood, but of learning through child-like wonder to accept all others and, most importantly, the self. Together the lessons of self-acceptance, appreciation for all living things, and a positive outlook are valuable lessons found in the fantasy text of “Tail of the Sea Witch.”

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