Alice Hoffman is the highly acclaimed author of over twenty novels for readers of all ages, including Illumination Night, Seventh Heaven, Practical Magic, Here on Earth, The Foretelling, Incantation, and, most recently, The Story Sisters and The Red Garden. Her previous novels for Scholastic Press are Aquamarine, which was made into a major motion picture, Indigo, and Green Angel, which Publishers Weekly, in a boxed, starred review, called "achingly lovely." She lives with her family outside of Boston. Visit her at www.alicehoffman.com.
Gr 5-6-Hailey and Claire, along with Raymond the snack-counter guy, are the only people who spend time at the Capri Beach Club, which has fallen on hard times. The best friends are ruefully counting down the days until Claire moves to Florida with her grandparents. When a storm washes a bad-mannered mermaid named Aquamarine into the club pool, she falls in love with Raymond and begs the girls to help her win his heart. They agree, on the condition that she returns to the sea after her "date" with him. This book has some wonderful elements-there is some vivid imagery, especially when it comes to the setting, with its waves of heat and air of decay. There are also some lovely balances between the girls as they gradually exchange roles as either brave or clever, and they seem to take turns accepting the girl who will inevitably move in next door. Unfortunately, the narration puts too much space between readers and the story, leaving them unengaged. There is also the more practical question of why the beach club is still open even though Claire and Hailey are the only two who come each day. Finally, one of the things that Hoffman seems to do best in her adult novels is leisurely create characters that can walk right out of the story. She doesn't have the time or space here to do that and the result, sadly, is a very boring mermaid and two dull girls suffering from separation anxiety.-Patricia A. Dollisch, DeKalb County Public Library, Decatur, GA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Hoffman's (Fireflies; The River King) novel for children focuses on two best friends who share a mysterious secret. The summer that Hailey and Claire are both 12 is bittersweet; come September, Claire will move to Florida with her grandparents. But in the meantime, the girls spend their days at their favorite hangout, the Capri Beach Club, which is slated for demolition and all but deserted, save for Raymond, the college-bound bookworm who runs the snack shop. After a violent storm, the girls discover a mermaid at the bottom of the pool. As the days pass, Aquamarine's health wanes on account of the chlorinated water, and the girls orchestrate a Cinderella-esque romantic evening between Aquamarine and Raymond on the condition that the mermaid return to the sea after that night, to heal. Hoffman creates an apt metaphor for that twilight time between childhood and adolescence when magic still seems possible and friendships run deep and true. Although her characters are sketched well, they are not fully realized; and while the language is lyrical (Aquamarine is "beautiful as a pearl" with a voice "as cool and fresh as bubbles rising from the ocean"), the narrative itself spins out in a coolly elegant, detached voice that evokes an adult's ("Maybe... they'd grow up and be just like all those other people who didn't know what it meant to have your best friend living right next door") and muffles much of the story's energy and potential. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Teens enjoy many of Hoffman's adult novels, which often focus on young women. Her first book for middle-graders is about 12-year-old girls, Hailey and Claire, who have been neighbors and best friends forever. They don't want anything to change, but as the searing summer draws to a close, Claire has to move to Florida, and the bulldozers are closing in on the girls' beloved hangout near the ocean. Then they find a beautiful mermaid, Aquamarine, huddled in the beach pool. They send her home to her ocean sisters, but first they help her find love and adventure with the handsome guy who works in the snack bar. Of course, in helping the stranger, the girls transform themselves and face the changes in their lives. What's great here is Aquamarine. She's is no romantic forsaken damsel: she's a rude, rebellious teenager, as needy as those who help her. In this small, spacious book, Hoffman's spare words reveal the magic and the gritty realism in daily life, "somewhere between laughter and a wave breaking." Hazel Rochman, Booklist Despite the girls' fear of change, everything shifts with a summer storm. At the beach club the next morning, Hailey and Claire find that the storm has left its mark, filling the cloudy waters of the swimming pool with jellyfish and seaweed. Hailey boldly dives in and discovers that the waves have also brought a delicate blue and white mermaid who is extremely grouchy at her predicament. The girls scheme to return the fish-woman to the sea, but she obstinately refuses to leave the vicinity of Raymond, the handsome boy who runs the gift shop. Alarmed at the mermaid's growing weakness, Hailey and Claire extract her promise to go back to the sea in exchange for one evening with Raymond. They set up a blind date, dress her in a long blue dress to hide her tail, and take her to the rendezvous in a wheelchair. But the next morning the dying mermaid is in love, and the patio is full of partygoers. Can the girls sneak her past all those eyes to savea