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Meranda and the Legend of the Lake

by Meagan Mahoney

A photo of author Meagan Mahoney and cover of her book Meranda and the Legend of the Lake

Family secrets, fantastical beings, and authentic identities rise to the surface in Meranda and the Legend of the Lake, an absorbing middle-grade novel by Calgary-based debut author and pediatric intensive care physician Meagan Mahoney.

The last time 11-year-old Meranda visited family in Cape Breton, she was a toddler. But when her great-uncle Mark dies in a fishing boat accident, she returns with her parents to their hometown for the wake. Meranda’s memories and knowledge of where she came from are limited: “My family’s history is like a fairy tale to me. Stories and places that have existed only in my imagination.” The clarity she seeks is hard to find in the small community of Skye, a mystical place where legends and superstitions loom as large as the town’s wooden waving mermaid welcome sign.    

Meranda soon finds herself immersed in the many unresolved mysteries swirling around the “home of the Bras d’Or Mermaids,” from the suspicious circumstances surrounding her uncle’s death to the old-timers who call her “miracle baby” and “Mer-girl” and regard her with both curiosity and apprehension. After failing to get any straight talk from adults, the perceptive only child knows something fishy is going on and finds her own answers – and her true self – in the process.

A richly developed folkloric undercurrent runs through the narrative. Meranda was raised on stories from a book of supernatural encounters and inexplicable occurrences in the waters of Sky Harbour penned by a local historian. Excerpts from Legends of the Lakes by Sarah Chapman detailing dramatic eyewitness accounts of rescues and abductions by merfolk preface several chapters, ramping up the suspense and adding another layer of uncertainty: “While experts felt his delusions were a direct result of the near-death experience, they could offer no explanations for how he had survived the ordeal relatively unharmed.”

The sudden deaths at sea affect individuals and the community in different ways, and the complexities of grief and fear are thoughtfully explored. There’s a realistic ebb and flow to the familial relationships. Meranda, a tween with cerebral palsy who walks with crutches, is beyond frustrated at being treated like she’s invisible or a “precious child” by her overprotective mother: “I’m here! I’m not fragile. I can handle this.” Meranda’s actions and insights propel the plot, and as she untangles the secrets of her past, she guides her family home.


Reviewer: Linda Ludke

Publisher: Owlkids Books


Price: $19.95

Page Count: 232 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 978-1-77147-434-4

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: January 2022

Categories: Children and YA Fiction, Kids’ Books

Age Range: 8–12