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Sculptor and Author Team Up to Bring Salado, Texas, Mermaid to Life

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Among the books you should add to your reading list this year, “Maiden Mermaid: The Tale of Sirena” should be at the top. This keepsake children’s book in rhyming form is based on the same legend that inspired the popular bronze mermaid sculpture in Salado, Texas. The statue was completed by artist Troy Kelley, who read author Sheri Wall’s prior children’s books and personally requested that she write Sirena’s story – a legend that was told to Kelley by his grandmother when he was a young boy growing up in Texas. “At a chance encounter with Mr. Kelley, he casually asked me about rewriting his grandmother’s story about Sirena in rhyme. I literally could not stop thinking about it and began working on some ideas the same evening. He was surprised when I called a week or so later to say I had a draft for him to see,” Wall explained.

Coupling the captivating rhyming text with eye-catching watercolor illustrations, Wall partnered with Kelley to bring the inspiring story to life, which was a childhood favorite of the sculptor. “Weeping alone by the creek, Sirena whispered her plea, ‘If my bold, fearless brave would choose to notice me, Oh brilliant moon above, bubbling springs below, please send me a sign and make Brave my beau,’” is just a small sample of the brilliant work the author has pulled from the Kelley’s grandmother’s story.

Sculptor and Author Team Up to Bring Salado, Texas, Mermaid to Life

Photo: Facebook/A Matter of Rhyme

According to the Troy Kelley artist page, depicting the popular Salado sculpture, the details around the mermaid are that she was a beautiful Indian maiden who wished to marry an Indian brave who didn’t return her feelings. In her yearning for his love, she sat by the river. Gazing upon her own reflection in the water, she made the wish you see above. It was then that a magical catfish, hearing her wish, vowed to assist her in return that she agreed to become a mermaid during each full moon, swimming that night with the catfish. The catch, (and there’s always a catch!) was that if over the course of being a mermaid, a human should set eyes on her, she would remain in that form forever (which was a secret hope of the catfish). The two came to an accord, and the result was that Sirena and her love were soon wed. She lived up to her end of the bargain and, during each full moon, she swam with the catfish for the night as a mermaid. As luck would have it, however, during one of the full moon swims, a fishhook got caught on her fin. She climbed up on a ledge close to a bubbling spring to remove it, and her own husband caught a glimpse of her. Just as their eyes met, “the catfish pulled her back into the river, to remain a mermaid forever. The spring keeps flowing, watered by her tears.”

Sculptor and Author Team Up to Bring Salado, Texas, Mermaid to Life

Photo: Facebook/A Matter of Rhyme

Kelley’s sculpture, Sirena the Mermaid, was placed in Salado Creek in 1986 during the Texas sesquicentennial. It became Salado’s first public sculpture and continues to draw tourists to the Central Texas town, year after year. Taking a cue from the creative community that developed there, the town of Salado markets itself as “The Best Art Town in Texas!” It’s home to a variety of “eclectic shops filled with the works of locally and nationally known artists,” not to mention a number of festivals during the calendar year, with something for everyone. The book, “Maiden Mermaid: The Tale of Sirena,” is like the missing link to a long-cherished local fable that invites children into Salado’s history and mystique. Art and culture have often been an interest shared among adults with sometimes difficult ties to the younger generations. What better way to pique their curiosity and generate a love for the same than through the original passion that inspired Kelley’s artwork? As Wall passionately puts it, “This book with its transformed maiden mermaid and talking catfish sparks creativity and wonder in children! They want to know ‘what if’ and ‘why’ and ‘what now.’ As their imaginations wander, they can express themselves through the art form they love the most, whether it be drawings, paintings, clay sculptures, writings, or pretend play.”

Sculptor and Author Team Up to Bring Salado, Texas, Mermaid to Life

Photo: Indiegogo

“It wasn’t until Mr. Kelley asked me about writing the legend of Sirena in rhyme, that I learned his unique sculpture was inspired by a family story his Grandmother Kelley used to tell. What a heart-warming family legacy! At first, the legend seems to be a story of lost love, but the lessons of being patient, trusting carefully, and making wise decisions flow just below the surface. That’s what I find fascinating about it,” Wall stated. Her book is presently in the midst of presales through an Indiegogo campaign which is also helping to offset its printing costs. Those wishing to learn more can view the campaign, background information, and two excellent videos featuring interviews with the author and the artist. “I loved the idea of writing the legend of Sirena the Mermaid in a rhyming children’s book, not only for the lyrical quality of rhyme, but because it is also so beneficial for children’s cognitive development. I have included extra features like vocabulary words and discussion themes to help enrich the reading and bonding experience. I feel so honored telling Sirena’s story in a new way,” author Sheri Wall said.

Sculptor and Author Team Up to Bring Salado, Texas, Mermaid to Life

Photo: Facebook/A Matter of Rhyme

Kelley is quoted in the campaign as well, with the message that one of his favorite sayings is “art begets art.” This truly has come full-circle in the instance of his Salado mermaid statue. The story of Sirena was once a Native American tale. Its mystique comes from the art of storytelling. This, in turn, inspired Kelley’s sculpture, and now it’s inspiring Wall’s keepsake children’s book. The connections are unmistakable. And the book itself is a work of art, with its colorful illustrations and lyrical rhyme, it’s sure to become a storytime favorite. Not only that, but the Indiegogo campaign is also supporting Variety’s Sirena Fest which is working toward raising funds for an all-abilities playground for the children of Salado and visitors alike. Learn more about how you can become part of the legend, this promising campaign, and order a copy of “Maiden Mermaid: The Tale of Sirena,” at the link available here.