Title: Keeper
Author: Kathi Appelt
ISBN: 9781416950608
Pages: 399 pages
Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2010.

“Come on, moon,” she implored. Didn’t it know she was in a hurry? As soon as she said the word “moon,” she chewed on her bottom lip. So much had depended upon tonight’s moon, a blue moon, second full moon of the month.
First, Signe’s gumbo.
Then, Dogie’s two-word song.
Finally, Mr. Beauchamp’s night-blooming cyrus.
All three of those things had depended upon the blue moon, and all of them, every one, had been ruined.
Ruined by . . . CRABS!
Keeper never wanted to see another crab in her entire life! Never, never, never!
And now she needed the moon to turn the tide around and pull her out of the pond, through the channel, and into the breakers until she got to the sandbar.
That was the plan . . . or at least the first part of the plan. (2-3)

Ten-year-old Keeper has lived along the shore of Texas since her mermaid mother abandoned her at age three. After what was supposed to be a perfect day goes horribly wrong, Keeper knows that her mother will make things better. She sets off to find her mother, relying on the belief that a blue moon calls mermaids to the sandbar. But her plan looks a lot better on paper, and after boarding a neighbor’s boat with her dog BD, Keeper realizes that this might not have been the best idea. Will her mermaid mother come to her rescue before she gets swept out to sea?

Kathi Appelt’s shifting point of view between flashbacks of Keeper’s life with her caretaker Signe and the current happenings as she struggles to make her way to the sandbar keeps readers on their toes. The slow, seductive reveal of the details tugs at your heart-strings. Keeper has had the worst day possible, in her opinion, and you realize just how badly things have gone. This girl is trying to make things right, and while her naive hope is shattered by the end of the book, it’s still a happy ending as she learns to appreciate her life. Readers can still maintain their belief that there might be some magic in the world, and the slight touches of fantasy prove endearing.

Keeper isn’t the only one with a storied past. Signe has put her life on hold while caring for Keeper, who she unofficially adopted when her mother left. Dogie is a surf shop owner who served in the army and came back with a stutter. And then there’s Mr. Beauchamp, who’s growing illness makes it difficult for him to enjoy anything besides his roses that Keeper has taken to tending. All three of them have a reason to celebrate the blue moon, and all three are affected by Keeper’s actions. They all engage readers, and Appelt’s sparse, at times poetic prose makes them all the more real as these characters come together to help each other.

I would probably recommend this to When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, because it has the same themes of family, multiple story lines, and a faint hint of “magical realism.”