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The Secret Mermaid: Book 4
by Sue Mongredien
Far out in the ocean live the Shell-Keeper mermaids. While the rest of the world sleeps, one little girl joins them for some magical mermaid adventures. Swimming with the turtles and tropical fish in the ocean reefs has always been such fun for the mermaids, but now the reef is dying and the sea creatures are losing their homes. Molly must help her friend Coral find her magic shell, so she can rescue the reef – but the wicked Dark Queen and her army have other plans…
“If you have a child who is just mastering reading then one of the first authors to look to these days is Sue Mongredien.”
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Sue Mongredien read English at Leeds University. After graduating, Sue worked as an editor of children's books before leaving to travel around the world. She now lives in Brighton with her partner and three children and is a full-time writer. She has had over 60 books published.
Visit www.suemongredien.co.uk/ to find out more.
Molly reached out and took hold of her conch shell, wrapping her fingers around its smooth, cool surface. “Please, please take me to the mermaids tonight,” she whispered, holding it tightly. “I think they need me.”
She closed her eyes and lay listening to the sea. Sssshhhh… Ssssshhhhh… Sssshhhh… went the waves as they rolled in and out.
And then, without any warning, Molly felt as if she were falling very fast from a great height. She could hear a rushing sound in her ears as she fell further and further, faster and faster…
“Molly… Molly… Molly…” called a voice, very faint, as if someone was shouting to her from far away.
Molly felt tingles all over as the falling sensation stopped, and she opened her eyes at last. She was on the seabed, with warm, azure water around her. Molly gasped in excitement and immediately gazed down at herself. Yes! She was wearing a turquoise top with her conch necklace around her throat, and where her legs had been, there now swung a sparkling green-scaled tail. She was a secret mermaid again – the shell’s magic had worked!
“Molly… Molly…” The voice came again – louder this time. Molly swung around to see one of the Shell-Keeper mermaids swimming towards her. It was Coral, smiling and waving, her dark hair streaming behind her and her violet eyes bright and welcoming. “Molly!” she cried, greeting her with a hug. “Oh, I’m so pleased to see you.”
Molly hugged her back. “I’m glad to be here,” she said – and then saw over Coral’s shoulder where she was. “Oh,” she said. “We’re in the coral reef!”
Coral nodded, and the smile vanished from her face. “Yes,” she said, “and doesn’t it look awful?” She flung an arm out, pointing around them. “Look – parts of the reef have become bleached, do you see? All the algae have gone, and without them the reef doesn’t have enough energy to feed all the creatures that come here.”
Molly gazed around. The coral structures of the reef were skeletal and white, and looked rather eerie, looming through the sea like ghostly fingers in every direction. The whole place seemed deserted.
“It wasn’t so long ago that this reef was seething with life,” Coral went on miserably. “There were all kinds of colourful fish – clownfish, rays and pufferfish – plus there were sand sharks, sea cows, eels, squid, sea turtles…” Her voice trailed away. “And now they’ve all left to find new homes – if they can. Oh, if only I had my piece of the conch! I could work some healing magic to bring this reef back to life. But I still haven’t found it – and I’ve been looking for days now!”
“I’ll help you look,” Molly said, wanting to comfort her.
Coral gave a weak smile. “Thank you,” she said. “I heard from the other Shell-Keepers that you’ve been amazing at helping them.”
Molly blushed with pride. She knew that Carlotta, the bad mermaid queen, had originally stolen the five magical conch pieces from the Shell-Keeper mermaids, and taken them back to her dark cave. But when Molly first entered the Undersea Kingdom, the magic of Molly’s sixth piece of the conch had sent the shell pieces scattering through the ocean. With Molly’s help, Ella and Delphi had already found their pieces of the magical conch. Molly really hoped she could help Coral find hers too, in time to save the reef from dying out completely.
She felt a swishing sensation behind her just then and turned to see an enormous sea turtle gliding serenely through the water towards the two mermaids. “Oh!” Molly cried, delighted at the sight of such a huge, graceful creature. “Hello there.”
The sea turtle had dark beady eyes and a wide, friendly smile, but she looked concerned. She sailed right up to Molly and Coral, her flipper-like legs moving strongly through the water. Her green shell was large and heart-shaped, with yellowy edging. “Hello,” she said in a low, musical voice. “Have you seen my baby? I can’t find him anywhere – the reef seems deserted.”
Coral shook her head. “No, I haven’t seen any creatures in this part of the reef for a while,” she said, with rather a sad sigh. “I don’t know where they’ve all gone.”
The sea turtle gave a slow blink. “The sea horses say that there’s one area of the reef that’s still healthy – Tropical Valley, they’re calling it,” she replied. “And you know what the sea horses are like – they seem to hear everything first! So that’s where I’m headed, just as soon as I can find my little one. He’s still very small, and doesn’t have a good sense of direction. I’m worried he’s got lost, or stuck somewhere.”
Molly bent to stroke the old turtle’s head. “We’ll look out for him,” she promised. “I’m sure he can’t have gone too far.”
“Thank you,” the turtle said. She waved goodbye with her flipper, and swam slowly away.
Molly and Coral watched her disappear into the damaged reef. “Maybe we should head for Tropical Valley too,” Coral suggested thoughtfully. “If the reef is healthy there, it may mean my shell is somewhere close by.” She shrugged. “You never know, some of the magic might have leaked out and be helping to protect that part of the reef.”
Molly nodded. “We should definitely take a look,” she said. “And if all the other creatures have taken refuge there, you could ask if any of them have seen your shell.”
She and Coral swam away from the silent, empty reef, and Molly felt a shiver of relief as they left it behind. There was something very sad about being there – it felt as if they’d been standing in the ruins of an old house, hollow and lifeless, with nothing but ghosts and memories around them.
She gave herself a little shake. There was no point getting miserable and downcast about it – she and Coral had work to do. If they could find Coral’s piece of conch shell, they would be able to help the reef flourish once more, and…
Molly was jerked out of her thoughts by a sudden scream. She glanced around to see Coral being dragged away from her by a strong whirling current. “Come back!” she yelled, without thinking, striking out after her friend. But seconds later, she regretted it. For now, she was being pulled along by the mighty torrent of water too – and however hard Molly battled against it, she was powerless to swim in any other direction.
It felt as if she were fighting the water, scrabbling at it with her arms, thrashing at it with her tail…but to no end. Nothing she did made any difference – she was trapped in the rushing current with Coral as it threw them roughly along. Was this something to do with the Dark Queen?
A delicious series and one that is unapologetically girlie. The characters are enchanting and, like all Sue’s books, the attention to detail in her description is utterly perfect.
This third book in the Secret Mermaid series is perfectly pitched for the emerging reader with seventy six pages of text divided into six chapters. There's liberal use of illustrations by Maria Pearson which ensure that the pages are not too daunting – and that there are useful clues to the story if a little help is needed. The vocabulary is challenging but not too difficult for the newly confident reader. Don't worry if you haven't read the first two books in the series, you'll quickly catch up with the story!
It's a good story too with adventure, intrigue and just a little danger as the girls are pursued by a great white shark and have to negotiate with a rather grumpy sea urchin. It's not a book which is likely to appeal to boys but any girl who enjoys magic and adventure is going to enjoy this book.
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