Set in 1895, Morwenna and her Da run the funeral parlour. They are also the cemetery keepers on a nearby island. Morwenna is a gentle soul, stitching cloth to lay over bodies in the coffin, talking to the coffins on the boat trip over and making beeswax candles. These candles are placed on the graves along with seashells. Morwenna talks to the people as she cleans their gravestones and loves the traditional way she and Da care for the dead.
Local legend has it that the dreadful storms, which have taken many lives and wrecked many boats, have been caused by sea creatures called tide singers. These sea people lure sailors to their deaths on the rocks by singing haunting songs. Morwenna dismisses these stories, thinking that the locals want somebody to blame for the tragic losses. Mrs Bussell, the oldest inhabitant in town, is a gossip, demanding payment for the ‘news’ she carries. This particular lot of ‘news’ is that locals have once again heard strange songs at night. Morwenna has heard these songs too but has dismissed them as her overactive imagination.
The next day, whilst out on the island tending to the graves, the weather turns. A dreadful storm sets in, blowing boats off course. Whilst Da is out that night on a rescue mission, a fisherman brings in a half-drowned girl who was washed up in a fishing net. The family’s health tonic is renowned, and Morwenna is determined to help her. Morwenna realises that there is something strange about this girl as her hair stays dripping wet and will not dry. She also has a fondness for eating raw fish straight from the bucket. But it is the magic that she can perform with her song, to calm the sea, that is truly magnificent. Because of Morwenna’s meddling, the townspeople get to hear about the tide singer and she is cruelly taken away to be punished. Can Morwenna find a way to free her? Is it possible for there to be a future where the tide singers and townspeople can share the sea and the fish?
Eloise Williams has written a chillingly good story for Upper Key Stage Two. Published by Barrington Stoke, with the dyslexic reader in mind, this is a fabulous example of a high interest text with a clear layout, helpful illustrations and their trademark cream paper.
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