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I’m trying to identify a book I remember reading sometime in the 2005-2006 time range. This book was in my fifth grade classroom in the US. I’ve tried searching for it a few times in the past few months, but haven’t had any luck.

It was a collection of short fantasy stories, and I assume it was a young adult fiction as the stories were all centered around children/teenagers.

I remember details of three of the stories.

In one, a young woman finds a seal/walrus hide/suit in a trunk in her grandmother’s house. She puts on the suit and becomes the animal. She adventures out into the ocean and swims very deep and runs out of breath. She falls unconscious, and wakes up to her grandmother presumably having rescued her. Her grandmother then explains that some people in her family have this ability, and she needs to practice more.

In another, a young woman starts going through puberty and finds snakes growing out of her head. Her mother and aunts then reveal that they are the Gorgon sisters, or something similar.

I believe the third is also from this same book, but I might just be mixing it up with something I read elsewhere.

A young man is working for a traveling circus. He has full eagles wings growing out of his back. They aren’t strong enough for him to fly, so he can only flap them for the people who come to see him. At the end, he has a revelation and is able to separate the eagle in him from his human self, and they split apart forever, the eagle flying away.

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    In addition to the quality answers below, it may be worth pointing out that the idea of a young woman turning into a seal is a frequent component in Scottish and Irish mythology: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selkie – dwizum Sep 26 '19 at 20:51
  • Expanding even further on dwizum's comment: the motif of a man hiding the selkie's sealskin in order to marry the selkie's human form is Christiansen type ML 4080, "seal bride." See also "swan maiden." – Quuxplusone Sep 27 '19 at 15:23
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Thank you to @TheLethalCarrot, without whom I would not have found this book.

The book in question was Half-Human (2004), which did indeed include part of Dusssie by Nancy Springer.

A girl who hears the sea amongst the busy streets of Manhattan. A princess born with the strength to clutch a sword hilt. A winged boy who cannot fly. In these stories, the kind where trees can become men and girls wake up with snakes for hair, people are not always what they seem. But they still must discover who they are.

Compiled and edited by Bruce Coville, with contributions by Tamora Pierce, Gregory Maguire, Jane Yolen, Nancy Springer, D.J Malcolm, Janni Lee Simner, Jude Mandell, Tim Waggoner, and Lawrence Schimel.

The three bolded parts of the first paragraph are the three stories I described in my original post. The first is called Water’s Edge (by Janni Lee Simner), and is about a young girl who finds out she is a Selkie. The second, about a young man with wings who can’t fly, is called Soaring (by Tim Waggoner). And the third, which became the book Dusssie, is called Becoming (by Nancy Springer).

This book was published by Scholastic in 2004, which also explains why it was in my fifth grade classroom.

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As this was in a school classroom it seems highly likely it might have only included excerpts from the stories and not the whole thing in detail. Or it could have just mashed together a group of stories for the sake of a class rather than being an official book. As such the stories are probably:

Dusssie (2007) by Nancy Springer

Dusie always knew puberty was going to be confusing, but she never realized it was going to be catastrophic--until she wakes up one morning to find that her hair has turned into a writhing mass of slithering snakes and discovers the real truth about her family: her mother is a Gorgon--right out of Greek mythology--and she was named after her mother's younger sister, Medusa. Her mother had hoped that Dusie's being half-mortal would protect her from inheriting the family curse.

Still reeling from this revelation, Dusie tries to keep her snakes under wraps. But after a boy she likes in school almost exposes her, she discovers another family secret--just one look from Dusie's snakes has the power to send someone right into his own personal Stone Age. Talk about "if looks could kill"!

Dusie better figure out how to control her snakes and her rage, and find a way to get her life back--before anything else disastrous happens.

Found with the Google query short story snake hair puberty gorgon.


The Secret of Roan Inish (1995) by Rosalie K. Fry

Fiona McConville is a child of the Western Isles whose family left the fishing life and their home on the small islet of Ron Mor for the Scottish mainland when Fiona was six. But city life doesn’t suit Fiona so at age ten she is sent back to her beloved isles to live with her grandparents. There she learns more about her mother’s strange ways with the seals and seabirds; she hears stories of the selkies, mythological creatures that are half seal and half human; and she wonders about her baby brother, Jamie, who disappeared during the island evacuation but whom fishermen claim to have seen. Fiona determines to find Jamie and strikes up a friendship with her older cousin Rory to enlist his help. When her grandparents are suddenly threatened with eviction, Fiona and Rory put their plans into action.

This was also turned into a 1994 film of the same name. Found with the Google query short story girl grandmother seal hide becomes seal.


"The Boy Who Became an Eagle" (2000) by Kathryn Cave, Mary Ling (Editor), Nick Maland (Illustrations)

The Boy Who Became an Eagle, written by Kathryn Cave and illustrated by Nick Maland, tells the story of an extraordinary boy who learns to fly and how his life makes a drastic change. This young man lives in a small community that is going though a rough time. He decides to fly away on his own and experience what the world has to offer. A traveling showman who runs a type of extraordinary-people show discovers him and makes him the main attraction. Soon the boy becomes homesick and wants to return home, but is abducted and held hostage until he outsmarts the criminals. At the end of the book the boy is back with his family and happy to be home.

Amazon, The Boy Who Became an Eagle, review

Found with the Google query short story circus man is part eagle.

  • Dusssie is definitely correct, I read the sample from Amazon. I’m pretty sure The Secret of Roan Inish is incorrect. I wouldn’t have been able to stand the writing style, and from what I could find, the girl doesn’t ever become a seal. The Boy Who Became An Eagle isn’t correct, either. The boy in that doesn’t have wings. In the story I read, he has physical wings and in the end physically separates into a human and a bird. – Logan Clark Sep 26 '19 at 18:02
  • @LoganClark Okay, considering Dusssie is a novel then you likely read extracts of certain books and/or short stories. – TheLethalCarrot Sep 26 '19 at 18:04
  • The 2014 animated film The Song of the Sea also bears mention, being loosely based on Roan Inish. – dwizum Sep 26 '19 at 20:56

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