hannah book coverReviewed by Jennifer J.

Set in the late 19th century, Kathryn Lasky’s Hannah: Daughters of the Sea is the first in a new young adult series featuring a young girl named Hannah Albury who suffers strange illness when separated from her home near the sea.

At the age of 15, Hannah, an orphan, is thought too unsuitable to be placed in a modest working environment. Because other states have different rules regarding their orphanage tenants and Hannah is now considered too old for the Home for Little Wanderers, she is shipped out to Kansas. The farther Hannah is from the ocean, the sicker she feels. She starts to develop sores and an irrepressible itching. Hannah can feel herself slowly dying, and knows the only remedy is to return to the sea.

After returning to Boston, Hannah is placed as a scullery maid in the home of an eccentric affluent family. She becomes drawn to a set of three vases, one of which depicts a tail rising from ocean waves. There is something familiar about that tail, and Hannah is determined to find out what that is. A highly esteemed painter commissioned to do portraits of the Hawley family’s daughters seems to know the secrets of that vase, and of Hannah herself.

I have always been fascinated by mermaids and was ecstatic to read Hannah. Well-written and researched, Hannah was an enjoyable way to spend the evenings. However, Lasky has focused more on the lifestyle of a scullery maid in the late 19th century than on the life of a girl who has discovered she is a mermaid. It is only within the last few chapters of the book that Hannah’s suspicions are finally confirmed and she begins to embrace her calling to the sea.

The first few chapters of Hannah placed her in Kansas with a kindly Reverend and his wife, who took pity on her. When Hannah tells them she needs to return to Boston, there is no conflict; her new guardians readily agree to let her go back to Boston. In my opinion, these chapters were the least enjoyable of the entire book and seemed oddly out of sync with the rest of the book. However, if Lasky expands on one incident that happened in Kansas in later books, I will understand why these chapters were included.

Overall, Hannah is a book which will attract young female readers, and even older readers with a fondness for worlds existing beneath the sea. I am looking forward to learning more about the mysterious portrait painter and discovering what life Hannah will choose for herself: land or sea.

Please visit Kathryn Lasky’s website for more information

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.


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A review copy was provided free of any obligation by Scholastic. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.