Columbine: This is a little trilogy of books printed in a single volume, Mermaid Magic, Rani’s Sea Spell and The Shell Princess, all about Rani the red-headed mermaid. The trilogy is by the author of the Fairy Dust books, but unlike them it has no humans at all, being set wholly in the underwater world. The group that Rani lives with are on Tingle Reef, a safe haven from the Deep Blue which has sharks, sea spiders and yellow-back jellyfish, all very dangerous for mermaids. In the second book she goes to a family party in a shipwreck completely covered with white limpet shells, right out in the Deep Blue, and in the third she ventures far, far away, to visit mermaids living actually under the sea bed in a series of caverns.

Rani is different from the other mermaids she knows, having red hair, orange scales and golden eyes instead of blonde hair, green scales and blue eyes. Her adoptive family found her in a Great Clam Shell when she was a baby. Now she is discovering other differences too – she hears sounds they cannot, and can heal herself. When she is advised to visit the mysterious sea-witch, Morva, she is astonished to discover Morva is a red-and-orange mermaid too, and especially to learn she is herself a magic mermaid. There are even more surprises in the second two books of the trilogy, to do with Rani’s original family.

The little sea horse you can see on the cover is Rani’s pet, Roscoe, who often gives her good advice. There are other talking sea creatures, including Octavius the learned octopus, a sly oyster who refuses to show his pearl and an irascible whale who is annoyed by the noisy party. The only land creatures Rani sees are the white swimming bears she helps in The Shell Princess, and Morva says that nobody knows exactly where they live. It seems that these mermaids live in very deep water, and find that going upwards eventually makes them unbearably dizzy. (It is tempting to suggest that this could be a explanation for the silly behaviour of those mermaids who do come to the surface – that they are just light-headed from the altitude!) You can also see Rani is wearing an amber pendant – she gets that in Rani’s Sea Spell, and it holds a very surprising secret.

There is a lot of charm and humour in these stories, magic often saves the day, and Rani’s behaviour throughout shows she has been very well brought up indeed.