Ever since her mother’s death, Kela feels every bit as broken as the shards of glass, known as “mermaid’s tears,” that sparkle on the beaches of St. Rita. But when she discovers a different kind of treasure, she accidentally summons an actual mermaid—the wrathful Ophidia.
Ophidia makes Kela a bargain: her ancient comb, in exchange for a wish. And though Kela knows that what she wants most is her mother back, a wish that big will exact a dangerous price…
Young readers looking for a book with storytelling that pulls them right in and a unique voice will love A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow. Set in the Carribean, the story follows a young girl Kela, still reeling from the loss of her mother. When she discovers a magical comb and is granted a wish by a mermaid to bring her mother back, little does she know that her wish will set off a chain of unfortunate events.
Today, I’m excited to share my five reasons of why you should pick up this gem of a story, one that will certainly be a hit with young readers with big imaginations.
1. A love letter to the Carribean
With all of us grounded and unable to travel right now, A Comb of Wishes is a figurative ticket to the Carribean. Stringfellow’s fantastic writing will immerse and pull readers in to Lisa’s world, an island surrounded by ocean and conservation sites with a close community where everyone knows each other.
A Comb of Wishes reads as a love letter to the Carribean; to the people, to the land, to the ocean, to conservation efforts, and to the rich stories within. Lisa’s mother worked as a story curator, and her father’s job as a dive instructor and advocacy for conservation add another layer, highlighting the importance of caretaking the world around us.
2. Told with phenomenal storytelling, about the power of storytelling
Crick. Crack. This is a story.
What immediately stands out in A Comb of Wishes is Stringfellow’s phenomenal storytelling. Though most of the chapters are told from Lisa’s perspective, capturing the perspective of a twelve-year-old who longs for her mother, Lisa’s chapters are nicely juxtaposed with a few chapters told from the story of Ophidia, the vengeful mermaid whose fate is more intertwined with Lisa than they both realise. Indeed, A Comb of Wishes is about the power of storytelling, and how stories are sometimes passed down like heirlooms and can hold considerable power.
3. Two words: vengeful mermaids
A vengeful mermaid, specifically Ophidia, take center stage in A Comb of Wishes. The story’s depiction of mermaids, and particularly the story behind Ophidia’s path of vengeance will intrigue readers – and also offer a great perspective on how misunderstandings can lead to decades-long grudges.
4. A profound portrait of grief
At the very heart of this story is a heartfelt and profound story about grief. A Comb of Wishes, after all, is a story about a young girl is grappling with her mother’s death and how the heavy weight of her grief alienates her from people in her community. Death of loved ones, particularly those of parents, is something that is forever carried by children, and A Comb of Wishes honours the unique love between child and parent.
5. A cautionary tale that will excite and delight
Cautionary tales are often fun to read, and A Comb of Wishes is no exception. “Be careful for what you wish for” is at the center of the story, but I enjoyed how Stringfellow elevates the cautionary tale to a story that is ultimately a story about how, sometimes, the wishes that we make come from a place deeply rooted in love and loss. Furthermore, as Ophidia exacts her vengeance, the story can sometimes take a chilling turn (but never overtly scary), which will excite and delight readers looking for a thrill.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A girl finds a magical comb and makes a deal with a mermaid: in exchange for the comb, the mermaid will grant her a wish.
Perfect for: Young readers who love mermaids; readers who love ‘cautionary tale’ stories; readers looking for atmospheric storytelling.
Think twice if: Readers not at all interested in mermaids; readers not looking for a story that centers a death of a parent.
Genre: Middle-grade contemporary fantasy
Trigger/content warning: death of a parent, death themes.