A good read for the kids

The Fish in Room 11 is the kind of imaginative, absorbing, thoughtful and fun book I wish I had read when I was a child.

It's a kind of Cinderella story with a "happy ever after" ending that can be enjoyed by boys and girls. It tells the story of Toby, an orphan who lives in a seaside hotel that has seen better days.

The owner of the hotel, Mr Harris, is mean and stingy. He does not like Toby and treats him like an insignificant "odd job boy". His reasons are not revealed until later in the book. Toby's life changes for the better when he spots a mermaid on the shore while looking for laundry blown by the wind.

Spurred by curiosity and loneliness, he befriends Eliza Flot. He meets Flot's loud and flamboyant parents who live underwater and who take to Toby like a fish to water. With the help of Mr Harris' cousin Margot and a friendly old sailor, Toby helps the Flots out of their squalor by sneaking them into a room in the hotel.

Disguised as humans, they bring fun and cheer to the dreary hotel, much to Mr Harris' disapproval. They also give Toby a special antique ring, which holds the key to his true identity and riches beyond his imagination.

Dyer's narrative should keep the young ones away from their favourite games and TV for a few days.