The Magic Sea Shell by Margaret J. Baker ; Illustrated by Susan Elson
New York : Henry Holt and Co., 1960. First edition. Stated. Hardcover. 122 pages ; illustrated ; 21 cm. $3.00 dust jacket in minimal wear. Gift inscription on flyleaf. Storage odor within pages. Pages are unmarked. Binding's sound.
The Magic Sea Shell
Margaret J. Baker
Illustrated by Susan Elson
When the Topplings of Cornwall, England, receive word their explorer father is most unlikely to return from his Arctic mission, Merry, Michael, and Betsey regretfully leave their old home for the seaside boarding house their mother purchases at Brighton.
Brighton life takes on the glow of enchantment when the children discover a magic whelk shell. On holding it to their ears they hear the characteristically crotchety voice of a mermaid who grudgingly promises them, as the shell's finders, the "usual privileges" — three magic wishes!
The children's delight over the prospect of the wishes and their gift of a comb and hair curlers, in particular, please the mermaid—whose crotchetiness hides a kind heart— and she promptly launches them on their magic adventures. The children's wishes, like themselves, are unselfish, and as their fanciful adventures solve other's difficulties their own happiness is indirectly restored.
Known for her artistry in blending fact with fantasy in her many successful children's books, Margaret Baker sensitively portrays the likeable young Topplings against a realistic background of Brighton and the nearly believable magic world the children share with the mermaid, in a story with the refreshing yet timeless appeal of a fairy tale. Susan Elson's delicate, charming line drawings complement the text.
About the author
An English author, Margaret J. Baker has had over fifteen children's books published since she started writing at the end of World War II. Many of these books have been published in America, the best known perhaps are her Homer stories: Homer the Tortoise, Homer Sees the Queen, and Homer Goes to Stratford, and also Four Farthings and a Thimble and Benbow and the Angels.
Of THE MAGIC SEA SHELL, her first book for Holt, she writes, "What I have tried to do is to show how possible it is for magic to happen to absolutely ordinary children. Magic seems to me timeless and just as likely to occur in 1959 on a Sussex seaside beach as hundreds of years ago in the Arabian desert. I once lived at Brighton and found a whelk shell, like the one in the story, on the shingle near the Palace Pier. I have it still sitting in the greenhouse. This shell gave me the idea for the story. I have always loved the sea and swimming so that mermaids have always been special favourites of mine. I like magic stories to be mixed with everyday people and places so that they are firmly tacked down to reality like the stiffening in a tailored suit."
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