I LOVE this book. Love. It’s dreamy and magical and gorgeously written. In Keeper, Kathi Appelt has created a more than worthy follow-up to her award-winning Middle Grade novel, The Underneath.
Keeper is about a girl who believes in magic. She believes her mother, who has been gone for seven years, is a mermaid. After a particularly bad day, the day of a much-anticipated Blue Moon, Keeper chooses to go in search of her mermaid mother. She gets into a tiny boat along with her dog, and sets sail, hoping to find answers and solace and a way to mend everything.
What do I love about the book? I love the setting. Keeper lives on this strange little stretch of Texas coast, on a strip of land with only a few houses on it. Appelt brings the Gulf Coast to life so completely that you can smell the salt in the air and hear the surf and picture the sting rays floating under the waves. She devotes such attention to the setting that it’s really more of a character. I adore that.
I love how it’s about one really bad day. All kids can connect to that. The day when every single thing is awful, and keeps getting awful-er, no matter what you do to try to make things better.
I love the animals. There are three wonderful animals in the story: B.D. (Best Dog), Keeper’s loyal companion on her adventure, Captain (B.D.’s best/only seagull friend), and Sinbad (mysterious one-eyed cat). I’m not sure I could say which one of them is my favourite. That’s a good thing. (Warning: for a little while, it looks like something awful happens to one of the animals. It made me have to read really fast to find out if the worst had indeed happened. Don’t worry. Take home message? Dogs should wear life jackets). I’m not sure I’ll ever look at seagulls in quite the same way.
I love that it’s full of love stories – unexpected loves, old ones, lost ones, friendships, the love within families, the bonds we share with animals and that they share with each other. It’s all here.
The beginning of the book has a meandering and repetitive quality to it. You are waiting for something to happen, just like Keeper is waiting for her plan to get moving. At first I wasn’t sure about this slowness. I felt that the story wasn’t getting anywhere. But as I read on, I started appreciating it. As things get going, Appelt weaves in the different elements of the narrative and the backstory so gradually that you appreciate each separate story as it unfolds and joins in with the greater plot.
Keeper sweeps you up. As you read, you can feel all of the elements, the separate threads of story, pulling together. That is a most satisfying feeling, I must say. Love each word. Read this story out loud, and then read it again. It’s a beauty.
Keeper is published by Atheneum.