The Mermaid in the Millpond
by Lucy Strange
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 06 Jan 2022 | Archive Date 03 Dec 2021
Barrington Stoke, Barrington Stoke 8-12
History and myth entwine in this atmospheric tale of freedom and friendship from bestselling author Lucy Strange and acclaimed illustrator Pam Smy.
Bess has left the London workhouse behind for a job at a rural cotton mill. But life at the mill is hard and cruel– a far cry from the fresh start Bess hoped for. The only way to survive is to escape, but the mill is like a prison with no way out.
Meanwhile, rumours are spreading about a vicious creature that lurks in the millpond. Bess is sure it’s all nonsense, until one night she sees something stir in the murky water.
But is it really a monster that lives in the depths of the pond? Or a creature trapped and alone, just like Bess, desperate to escape …
Suitable for readers aged 8+ | Reading age: 8
A Note From the Publisher
"Evocative and eerie ... Another bite-size delight from Barrington Stoke" -- Karen McCombie
"[An] evocative slice of historical drama ... a book that transports us from our world to an almost timeless zone of wonder in amongst the darkness" -- The Bookbag
Average rating from 65 members
I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley. This book for the younger middle grade set (age 8+) absolutely charms with its dark yet hopeful story and fantastic illustrations. Bess is a recently-orphaned girl at a Victorian factory. Life is hard--abuse is rampant, hours are long, and the adults are awful. Bess isn't surprised by the cruelty of life anymore, though, and she doesn't want to make friends with other workers like Dot. Why get close to someone, to be hurt again? But when she realizes the rumored mermaid in the millpond is real--and trapped in a horrible place, just like her--she understands she's not the only one who suffers... and that burdens are easier when they are shared by friends. I adored this book. Yes, it is grim and realistic in its depiction of factory life, but it's also about empowerment, hope, and friendship. The illustrations are wonderful, too--moody and eloquent, and they add a lot to the story. I would have loved this book as a child, and I love it now, too.
The Mermaid in the Millpond caught me off guard with its powerful symbolism and honesty about the treatment of children in workhouses and mills in the 19th century. Lucy Strange has used beautiful language and engaging characters to portray a challenging situation with hope and a determination to survive. The daughter of a Covent Garden actress who died from tuberculosis, Bess has signed on at a cotton mill in the countryside. Hoping to avoid the workhouse, she has been fooled by the lie of a good home, delicious food and caring employers. Instead, she finds herself a prisoner of even harsher conditions with little chance of escape. Trapped and alone, she discovers that the story of the mermaid in the millpond might actually be true. Can Bess and her new friend, Dot, help the mermaid escape and free themselves in the process? This story is perfect for children in Year 5 & 6 who are learning about this era in their history lessons. The Barrington Stoke touch means it will be accessible for everyone so even children who find reading more difficult will be able to join in the class novel study.
Do you have or know a sweet kid with a taste for the eerie, gloomy, and macabre? Then The Mermaid in the Millpond is for them! This perfectly creepy, gorgeously illustrated story follows Bess as she tries to survive and escape a children's workhouse in Victorian England. But she's not the only prisoner... a frightening mermaid has gotten stuck in the millpond and needs her help to escape. Author Lucy Strange doesn't soften the realities of life as a child labourer for her young readers. The squalid, dangerous conditions Bess lives and works in are described in Dickensian detail, complete with cruel and abusive overseers. But it's not all grimness and despair. Bess finds hope in the friendship of another young girl, and the book ends on a very sweet, optimistic note. I'd recommend this book for young readers between the ages of 7 - 10, perhaps with some parental guidance to help explain and contextualise some of the darker moments. Thank you to NetGalley and Barrington Stoke for letting me read this dark little tale. I received this book as an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.