Sailor Twain
In 1887, while onboard the Lorelei, Captain Elijah Twain sees a mysterious creature come out of the Hudson River and attempt to hoist herself up onto the boat. As he pulls her up on deck he sees two things: one, she is wounded quite badly, and two, she is a mermaid. He takes her to his room and  keeps her there until her wound is healed. While Captain Twain is tending to his mermaid, Dieudonné Lafayette has taken ownership over the Lorelei after his brother, Jacques-Henri, has gone missing.

Guiding both Captain Twain and Lafayette from the land is the mysterious writer, C.G. Beaverton. Who is this author and what does he know about mermaids that might save both Twain and Lafayette? This part-historical, part-fantastical novel about the Hudson River, Greek mythology, and mermaids will take readers on a spectacular journey from land down into the depths of the sea and all that is hidden there. Keep your ears plugged, dear readers, for to hear the siren song of the mermaid can mean an unfortunate fate.

This book, originally presented as a webcomic serialized weekly, tells an adventure story that will keep readers interested and engaged long past the final image. I wondered about all the characters when I was away from the book, and, as I was reading, I not only wanted to see the conclusion, but I also wanted the story to keep going indefinitely. Sailor Twain contains a perfect mix of historical details and fantastical elements to lend a truthful nature to the story. The story is melancholy and sad, and Captain Twain so truly brought to life, that readers will root for him, for his survival, and for his love, Pearl. Yet the actions he takes, even though he might be under the spell of something much more powerful, lend a quality of unpleasantness to him which accentuates his human nature. All of the characters show the same sort of realness, a sense of humanness, which connects readers to the story and those who are living in it.

Siegel’s illustrations provide a lovely accompaniment to the wonderful words. The black, white, and grey of the charcoal and pencil lend a dreamlike quality to the drawings. Most everything is foggy and shaded, as if on the coast or on a boat, but also giving the more theoretical idea of muddling through a confusing and difficult situation. At times there are illustrations of extreme clarity and precision, which, when paired with the smudged quality of other illustrations, walk the line between reality and fiction. The way that Siegel draws people borders on cartoonish because of their wide eyes and exaggerated expressions, but it made them much more lifelike to me. Their feelings and emotions are always on display, and this display of emotion from the characters makes them relatable. The settings are drawn beautifully and with precision to detail, so that life on the boat is as realistic as is life below the sea and the mythical situations are equally “true to life.” This fairy tale will draw in readers because of the whole package: the story, the illustrations, and the way it is told; it will be hard for readers to accept the story is over – I know it was for me.

Older teens and adults will enjoy this story of intrigue, mystery, a siren’s song, and love left unrequited. Due to language and nudity, this book will be best for older readers. It will definitely enchant and enthrall those who choose to succumb to its charms.

Sailor Twain, or the Mermaid in the Hudson
by Mark Siegel
ISBN: 9781596436367
First Second, 2012

  • Traci

    | She/Her

    Traci has been a graphic novel selector and collections coordinator for kids and teens in libraries in Arizona and Oregon since 2005. She served as the chair of YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee, and served as a member of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens blogging team. She previously coordinated the Oregon Young Adult Network’s Graphic Rave list, OYAN’s yearly list of the best graphic reads for teens. Traci is a member of ALA, YALSA, and GNCRT. And, she achieved her greatest dream ever by serving as a judge for the 2019 Eisner Awards.

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