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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Aspen's Magical Mermaid Necklace, written by Melissa Ahonen and illustrated by Daria Shamolin, is a children's picture book that revolves around a little girl named Aspen and an incredible find she makes while on a family vacation. The book begins with Aspen, her brother Easton, and their parents disembarking from a plane after landing in Hawaii. The children are excited to get to the beach, and on the very first day, Aspen finds a shell necklace. It is reported as found and Aspen waits patiently to see if someone claims it. If unclaimed, Aspen will be able to keep it. In the meantime, the kids learn to surf, they snorkel and they see dolphins on an ocean tour...but it is what Aspen experiences next with the necklace in her safekeeping, and later what she discovers that makes the ordinary necklace one that is uniquely extraordinary.
As a child who spent entire summers with family in Hanalei Bay, learned to surf before the age of nine, and went on plenty of my own shell-finding expeditions, I giggled with delight when I first started reading Aspen's Magical Mermaid Necklace. I also may or may not have been reluctant to hand the book over to my children, who adored it. The story is intriguing and unique, tightly written, and Melissa Ahonen has skilfully provided enough depth to keep older children engaged, while still making it simple enough for my youngest to read it herself. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. Daria Shamolin employs a vibrant color palette to bring the story to life, breathing life into the characters with artistry that resembles modern animation and a backdrop of the tropical landscape so that you can also smell the sea air. Overall, this is a wonderful book that I am pleased to have in our bedtime reading rotation.