Reviews /

The Mermaid in the Mill Pond

Authored by Lucy Strange
Illustrated by Pam Smy
Published by Barrington Stoke Ltd

The Mermaid in the Mill Pond: Following the tragic death of her actress mother Bess is sent to the workhouse. Having sold most of her mother’s possessions to help stave off her illness Bess cannot afford to pay any rent. She moves from the workhouse in London to begin work in a Northern Mill. Her situation has hardened Bess. She is determined to rely on no one and to only look out for herself. Something we later learn is really not in her character. Life at the mill is bleak, the work is hard and dangerous. Bess must learn new skills that put her in constant fear of injury. There were no health and safety rules in these times. Bess spurns the offers of help and friendship.

Dot is determined to be Bess’s friend. Both girls are headstrong and get themselves into trouble with the formidable Miss Tucker, often beaten and eventually locked away. Bess is desperate to escape and makes several attempts each time thwarted by Miss Tucker. Dot tells Bess of a better workplace in Manchester where mill girls are educated alongside working. Both girls dream of getting there.

Alongside this story runs a parallel tale of a ‘viscous’, sea creature/monster/mermaid. On one of her attempts to escape Bess sees this tormented creature who is trapped in the Mill Pond just as she is trapped in the mill. Locked up with Dot the two girls hatch a plan to escape and release the ‘creature’ from its torment. Bess realises she cannot be this hard person any longer. She needs friendship. She cares for others and needs to be cared for.

This is a tale of harsh historical realities. Imagine being left alone with nothing, how hard these times must have been. There is a strong moral element to this story. Kindness and friendship pay well. A tale well told with empathy and pathos. A great read for KS2 readers.