Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Random Acts of Publicity


By Kathi Appelt

Illustrated by August Hall


When I first read this back in March of 2011, it never even occurred to me to write and post a review anywhere. I read it for three reasons: I was about to meet the author, it was a really good book, and the author and I share an alma mater. We both attended the University of Iowa a long time ago. An event sponsored by another acquaintance gave me the impetus to go back and have another look. From September 4 to 7, several writer friends will be committing random acts of publicity, spreading the word about other friends. This is the brainchild of Darcy Pattison ( I’m a couple of days early posting this.

Keeper, a ten-year-old girl, lives in a beach town with Signe, a friend of her mother’s. Her mother disappeared years before. Keeper is convinced her mother is a mermaid and will be back. The blue moon holds the magic that will make it happen and take her to the sandbar where the mermaids wait.

With rich characters, the story grips the reader. Will she survive the watery search for her mother? Will she ever realize that she really has it pretty good?

The real magic comes from Signe, who recognizes the needs of others and is able to fulfill those needs without too much sacrifice of herself. She teaches Keeper to be practical, and Keeper does a lot of planning for her journey. Keeper works for their next-door neighbor, Dogie, scraping and re-waxing surf boards. Dogie casts a protective eye over the little family. He’s loved Signe for a long time. Keeper is also protected by a dog named BD (Best Dog), a seagull named Captain, a grumpy cat named Sinbad, and Mr. Beauchamp, a neighbor. We even get to hear BD’s thoughts.

The mystical nature of Keeper’s beliefs is one of the things that makes this a unique story. Most kids, and many adults, feel they can make events happen with one act. For example, someone got hurt because you wished that person ill. Throw in a mermaid or two, and you have Keeper.

The illustrations add to the magic.


Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, 2010

Hardcover, 399 pages

ISBN: 978-1-4169-5060-8

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