Authors: Catherine Hapka
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2013 by Catherine Hapka
Cover art and interior illustrations copyright © 2013 by Patricia Castelao
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks and A Stepping Stone Book and the colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Mermaids in the backyard / Catherine Hapka; illustrated by Patricia Castelao. — 1st ed.
p. cm. — (A Stepping Stone Book)
Summary: When her family moves from Chicago to an island in South Carolina, Lindy is sure she will be unhappy until she makes a surprising discovery in the backyard of their beach house.
[1. Mermaids—Fiction. 2. Ocean—Fiction. 3. Moving, Household—Fiction.]
I. Castelao, Patricia, ill. II. Title.
PZ7.H1996Mer 2013 [E]—dc23 2012002297
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
“What should we do today?” Coral asked her sister, Sealily.
It was a peaceful morning under the sea. The sisters were floating out of their family’s cave with their pet sea horse, Finneus. Bright sunlight shone all the way to the seafloor from far overhead. The light made the water sparkle. It brought out coppery glints in Coral’s hair and silvery ones in Sealily’s.
“Let’s go look for sea stars in the shallows,” Sealily said with a swish of her tail. Her lavender and green scales glittered like jewels.
Coral shook her head. “You know we’re not allowed to go to the shallows. Besides,
Pelagos says there’s going to be a storm soon. Let’s find some dolphins instead.”
Sealily floated in place and thought about that. She loved grabbing a ride on a friendly dolphin.
But they had gone dolphin riding three days ago. Sealily wanted to do something different. She loved swimming when fierce storms raged overhead in the Drylands. Most of all, she loved surfing the wind-whipped water along the surface.
She knew she’d get in big trouble if her parents ever found out. Merpeople weren’t supposed to go above the surface. Never, ever. It was the strictest rule under the sea.
But Sealily couldn’t resist, no matter how much Coral scolded. Coral was much more careful than Sealily. Yet she never tattled on her. Never, ever. Sealily was happy
that Coral was her big sister.
“Okay,” she said. “We can go dolphin riding today.”
“Good.” Coral looked relieved.
Sealily smiled. “But tomorrow we’re going to the shallows,” she added. “Whether grumpy old Pelagos likes it or not.”
“We’ll see.” Coral shot upward. A school of minnows parted to let her pass, bubbling busily. Finneus squeaked and darted after her.
Yes, Coral could be way too careful. But she was crazy about anything to do with Drylanders. Sealily knew they would be heading toward the shore tomorrow, no matter what worries Coral might have about breaking the rules.
“Race you to the kelp forest,” Sealily cried. Flicking her tail, she zipped after her sister.
“No way,” Lindy Michaels said, staring through the car window. “We’re going to live
“Isn’t it adorable?” her mom said.
Lindy didn’t know what to say. The house looked like a giant bug. It was tall and narrow and stood on stilts. She could see right underneath it to the ocean. There were three floors above the stilts. The first two floors each had a white slatted porch sticking out at a different angle. Windows of every shape and size stared in all directions. Grayish-blue
shingles covered everything in between.
Even the yard was weird. It was June, but there was no normal green grass in sight—just tall yellowish grass that waved in the sea breeze and looked as if it would cut Lindy’s hand if she touched it. And lots of rocks and sand and scrubby-looking palms.
Behind the crazy stilt-bug house, the ground sloped down to the water’s edge. A huge tree with wide, spreading branches stood at the front corner of the house. It looked as if the tree was trying to push the whole house down the hill into the sea.
Lindy’s father steered the car into the driveway. At least Lindy guessed it was a driveway. It wasn’t anything like their driveway in Chicago. That one was paved and smooth, with tidy shrubs lining both sides.
This one was made of bumpy gravel and
broken seashells. It curved sharply to go around a big clump of boulders. Finally Mr. Michaels stopped the car.
“Come on, dear,” Lindy’s mom said. “We’ll show you your room.”
Lindy climbed out of the car as slowly as she could. Whatever room they were about to show her, it wasn’t
room was back home in Chicago. The only room she’d known for her entire nine years of life.
Her parents had always talked about leaving the city and their office jobs someday. They wanted to live on the beach and run a nice little tourist business. They’d planned to wait until after Lindy went away to college.
Then Lindy’s aunt had vacationed in South Carolina and noticed a boat business for sale. Lindy’s parents had decided it was fate. It was time to follow their dreams—now.
Lindy tugged on a strand of her dark hair. Her best friend, Tara, liked to tease her about that habit. She said Lindy would pull out all her hair and end up as bald as Mr. Dann, their third-grade math teacher.
Thinking about Tara—and even about Mr. Dann—made Lindy sad. What was Tara doing right now? Was she wearing the bracelet Lindy had made her as a good-bye present?
Lindy reached into the car and grabbed her pink backpack. Her going-away gift from Tara was inside. Lindy wanted to unzip the flap so she could touch it. But she didn’t want her parents to see.
“Your room is on the top floor,” Lindy’s mom said. “Isn’t that cool? You’ll be able to see the whole island.”
“And the ocean,” Mr. Michaels said with a wink. “You can watch for sea monsters
and pirate ships from up there.”
Usually Lindy loved her dad’s goofy sense of humor. He could almost always make her laugh.
She wasn’t in the mood to laugh right now, though. She felt more like crying. She blinked her eyes very fast to stop the tears from coming. When she looked at her parents to see if they’d noticed, they were staring in the other direction.
“Well, hello there!” her father called out cheerfully. Mrs. Michaels waved and smiled.
They were looking toward the left side of the house. It was very rocky over there. Stones of all shapes and sizes covered a steep slope, down from the sandy side yard. At the bottom, a row of craggy gray boulders stood at the edge of the water, holding back the waves. The boulders looked like a
line of hunched-over old men. There was even bright green moss on some that looked like hair.