Janis MacKay’s second Magnus Fin book for five to eight-year-olds is just as imaginative, but more fast-paced than its predecessor Magnus Fin and the Ocean Quest, for which MacKay won the Kelpies Prize 2009.
When Fin discovers that his initials have been scratched onto a big rock in the sea, he realises that the underwater world needs his help. Being part human – part selkie, Fin is able to go under the water to prevent the seals from getting ill. Miranda, Fin’s selkie grandmother, is especially in need of his help as she is gravely ill with the Sickness that plagues these waters.
As Magnus explores the Scottish waters yet again, MacKay encourages us to recognise the beauty of the sea and understand the effect of ocean dumping on our natural environment. Fin’s awareness of conservation and how to deal with fear and loneliness are prominent features in MacKay’s sequel.
MacKay describes the underwater world and its creatures with awe and a sense of humour, and like any children’s book she adapts a strong view of what is right and wrong. However, even the bad creatures, like the scary fish covered in fish hooks, deserve some pity from Fin, as they are, too, victims of human activities and pollution.
Magnus Fin and the Moonlight Mission is not only a cry for more understanding on environmental issues, but it also promotes Scottish culture and family values. Through Magnus Fin’s family relationships and his American friend Tarkin, young readers are taught about the importance of friendships, family roots and respect for each other’s differences.
This book also celebrates individuality and opportunities for young Scots in the most remote parts of the country where, at the Ceilidh party, newcomers are welcomed heartily.
One could argue that MacKay’s message of diversity and environmental conservation is sometimes too overtly present in the book, perhaps so much that it distracts from Fin’s adventure. Nevertheless, Magnus Finn and the Moonlight Mission is a well-written children’s book that doesn’t fail to entertain, educate and celebrate Scottish culture.