Columbine: The Flots are a family of merpeople – Albert, Gaynor and their daughter Eliza – who live in a dank cave under a pier. It sounds unhealthy, and they are not a very healthy lot, but they are friendly, jolly and generally good sorts. In this fresh and funny book they befriend Toby, an orphan who lives and works at the Grand Hotel, and when it seems their cave could be discovered, he suggests they move into the hotel.

Mr Harris, the hotel manager, is a a mean and sneaky fellow, but his cousin Margot is a sweet old lady who helps Toby arrange wheelchairs and accommodation for the new guests. Eventually, of course, Mr Harris discovers their secret, and like many greedy humans before him plots to put them on show. When his son Nigel bravely points out that the Flots will not like being exhibited, he replies: “Who cares? They’re only fish.” I mean, how rude. You will be glad to know he ends up a laughing-stock and Margot takes over the hotel.

Only at the very end is the secret connection between Toby and the Flots revealed, and I will not spoil it by revealing it here. That is Eliza you can see on the cover of the book. What you cannot see is that the tail and the water are all silver and glittery.

Robin: Gaynor reminisces about the time there were more mermaids about: “Back then, you didn’t have to worry. People thought it was good luck to see a mermaid – now they’d think they were losing their minds.” She remembers the full moon parties and sun bathing with the seals. The other mermaids have since gone off to find somewhere better. “Those that stayed all met an unpleasant end. Fishing nets or…” She changes the subject, but later mentions a mermaid who was put on a leash and made to dive for fish.

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