Title: Julian is a Mermaid
Author: Jesica Love
Illustrator: Jessica Love
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Children’s picture book
Book format: Hardback
Description: The day Julian sees three mesmerizing women, everything changes. All he can think of is becoming a mermaid himself.
But what will his Nana think?
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: This is a lovely book all about celebrating who you are, or want to be. ‘Julian is a Mermaid’ is a hardback book, a little smaller than A4 in size and has a lovely papery finish to the cover. Inside there are thick matt pages filled with very colourful illustrations and a little bit of text. There is a very simple story, Julian is with his Nana riding on a subway when he sees three woman dressed as mermaids boarding the same train. He’s mesmerised by their beautiful outfits, he loves mermaids and imagines himself as one. When he gets home with his Nana, while alone, he decides to dress completely as a mermaid (including make up) but then his Nana sees him.
Julian’s Nana looks upset but then she changes her outfit and takes him outside, still dressed in his mermaid outfit. The story then continues, it’s impossible not to reveal the ending as it’s so short, with Julian’s Nana taking him to a carnival where there are other people dressed as mermaids. The final images in the book show everyone having fun, dressed in mermaid outfits, even his Nana. The book may be very simple but the message is very powerful, Julian’s Nana accepts him for who he is. Julian not only wants to be a mermaid but believes he is one, and what makes this story lovely is the acceptance he gets.
I’ve seen a bit of negativity on this book from some amazon reviewers but I’m very surprised by their comments as I think they’ve missed the point of this story. There are complaints about the book being about transgenderism and issues around being feminine when kids don’t understand that at a young age, however for some kids, whether it’s a complex issue of feeling/believing they are a girl (or boy) or just simply feeling like you don’t fit in, this book tells kids they can be who they believe they are, that it’s okay to feel and be different. There have also been complaints about the way the women appear in the book, images of scantily clad women and bottoms hanging out, but I don’t see anything that I haven’t seen as a child during a carnival, and the bottoms are merely what some people naturally look like, I think the reviewers complaining are overthinking this and seeing what kids wouldn’t.
The images are lovely, they are very detailed and look a bit like detailed watercolours. I like how colourful the whole book is and the effect of each image with a brown background to each page rather than a usual background of white. There’s a very fun feel to each picture, and I love the way all the people have been drawn, there’s a lot of character in all of them. I also like the way that many people are far from skinny which is sometimes missed in picture books.
I really like this book, it’s a fun story teaching kids to be themselves and that it’s alright to feel different. It’s also a great book for just looking at, and I love it for the images alone. I can’t help but look at this book again and again to spot all the different details in the carnival pictures. I think some reviewers have really missed the point of this book, whether it’s a deep message or just a simple one, kids will like this book just for the images, and if it helps some children who feel different to feel better about themselves, and creates understanding in others, that’s a bonus.
-Review first appeared online June 2018 – now republished here.
What do you think of this book? Do you like the images and overall message? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂