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Reviewed by Hilary Hawkes for Readers' Favorite
Nelson Telson: The Story of a True Blue Blood by Heidi Mayo is a charming, perceptive story for children. Eleven-year-old Mariah is dreading starting yet another new school (her father’s work means they move every year), fearing she won’t fit in or know anyone. She takes solace in the beauty and peace of nature and the beach, and finds an ancient spearhead which appears to have magical powers. When she holds it she is able to communicate with the different sea and shore-line creatures she comes across – especially a horseshoe crab called Nelson. As she struggles to cope with a new, and at first horror of a teacher, her painful shyness, her unkind cousin who comes to stay, and her father’s illness diagnosis, Mariah retreats into different “nows,” both past and future, where she finds friends in the creatures who believe in her, and learns much about herself and others.
I loved the way this gentle and insightful story unfolds as it explores the inner world and struggles of Mariah. Readers will empathize with her feelings of loneliness and anxiety, and lack of control over what happens to her. Heidi Mayo shows great insight into her character’s emotional states. The world that Mariah is able to enter is where she feels safe and has a sense of relief and comfort, and this is where she develops her own resilience and wisdom that helps her when she returns to her everyday life. The message of the story is that we have more inner strength than we might at first know, and that facing what we fear and changing the way we view situations can lead to change and growth. The plot has a gentle pace that seems to grow in step with Mariah’s own personal growth – with plenty of intrigue and magic along the way.
I loved the information about the different sea creatures and references to ancient and historical ways of life that weave themselves so naturally into the story too. Nelson Telson is a well-written and wise story that looks beneath our views of the everyday and finds a perceptive truth and beauty about life and relationships. And there is something very special about a book that can convey that to children at the same time as telling a good and entertaining story. Recommended.