Tag Archives: Donna Jo Napoli

Sirena

Napoli, Donna Jo. Sirena (2000). 210 Pages. Scholastic. $4.99

As Greece gathers their troops to go to war with Troy, the mermaids of the Mediterranean Sea sing their siren-songs to attract men. Sirena is one of these mermaids, doomed to the death of a mortal unless she can “love”* a man. While the other mermaids thoughtlessly lure men to their deaths, Sirena sees the inherent flaws; they kill many men, they are hated, and they are costing lives for the sake of their own.

After an especially brutal scene where men beat a mermaid to death- and bash in her head and ribcage- and scream at the “whores” before they die, Sirena realizes that something might be wrong about this situation. (Gee, ya think?) She ventures out on her own- which is strange, because mermaids are social creatures – since none of the others seem to care that they are murderers.

She finds herself sharing an island with a man** who has been abandoned by his comrades. Of course, we can all see where this is going; she takes care of him, keeps him alive, and eventually gains her immortality through him. The two are “married”, and live in a strange sort of harmony. He spends his time on land, exploring the deserted island, missing humanity. She spends her time in the sea, dreaming about a different future.

Eventually, Sirena must make an important decision, one which will change both of their lives forever.

The story overlaps with The Illiad, a story which I love. The setting is also pretty good- the Mediterranean is a great backdrop for a fantastic*** tale. However, I am frustrated by the volume of mythology- it seems overwhelming at times- and how it sometimes seems forced. I dislike the point of view- first person present- and do not feel that it helps the story, third person limited would have been more comfortable to read.

The Quick Version:

I feel like this story would have sat better with me if the ending had been different. I like happy endings, or at least the sort where it’s clear that they will eventually be happy. This is not one of those endings. Occasionally, I feel like I’m drowning in mythology, and I’ve got a pretty solid grip on it. It gets roughly a 2.5 out of 5, because I’m a stickler for endings- they are the part which sticks with you the most, after all.

If you actually want to read it, you can get it on Amazon or through Swaptree.

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*By “love”, this book really means to have sex with. And when they have sex, it is vague- how do a man and a fish copulate?

** Philoctetes, for those of you who are mythology-savvy.

*** In the sense of “fantasy-like” rather than “very good”

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Filed under Book Review, Fairy Tales Retold, High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

The Prince of the Pond

Napoli, Donna Jo. The Prince of the Pond: Otherwise known as The Fawg Pin (1994). 151 Pages. Puffin. $5.99

Cover: The Prince of the PondOne day a prince is turned into a frog by an evil witch. Some undisclosed time later, a princess kisses him, and turns him back into a prince. But what happened to the prince in between? This story follows those in between times, as “Pin” finds love, creates a family, and teaches human traits to his frog-wife “Jade.” Due to a speech impediment because of his extra-long tongue, he calls himself “Pin” instead of Prince, and is a “Fawg,” not a Frog. This becomes important as he defeats a turtle, a water snake, and the Hag who turned him into a frog in the first place.

The ending is bittersweet; he feels like he loves Jade, and the feeling is mutual, but he does not behave that way. He changes the lives of every amphibian and reptile he meets, but he does not seem to care. His frog “family” remains in the pond when the prince is kissed. I found myself questioning the true level of emotional attachment in the last chapter.

This book is an entertaining read targeted at elementary schoolers. There is a lot in here about frog development- science in simple terms, designed to help kids learn about frogs while reading about the frog prince. At times, it feels a bit forced- what sort of frog knows about frog development instead of taking it for granted? However, it is a good chance to fit some science into an enjoyable book.

The Quick Version:

The book is beautifully illustrated, and easy to read. The story is familiar, but is retold uniquely enough to feel special. It scores a 4 of 5.

Want to read it? Trade for it on Swaptree or Buy it on Amazon

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Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, Fairy Tales Retold