Book Review: Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Review by Gen McNaughton

Cover of Julián is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love

It’s rare to find a book for young children that covers sensitive topics like multiculturalism and gender expression, but this book manages to address both at once in a way that is both age appropriate and engaging.  Julián is a young Latinx boy who notices some women dressed up as mermaids while riding the subway with his abuela. He becomes infatuated with their beautiful hair, long tails, and sparkly jewelry.  Throughout the train ride, his imagination runs wild as he pictures himself as a mermaid swimming with a multitude of colorful fish.  Upon returning home, Julián decides to recreate their beautiful look using an array of items he finds within his home; an old curtain, a plant, and some flowers.  He feels proud of his work, but will his abuela be able to accept his self-expression? 

This charming story combines Julián’s search for identity and acceptance with beautiful pastel illustrations and a simple storyline that could be used with a wide range of ages to navigate discussions about race, gender, culture, language, and acceptance.  Simultaneously delightful and thought-provoking, it confronts societal norms and will challenge children to think about identity with a unique perspective.  The portrayal of people of color as strong and expressive of their individuality, combination of Spanish and English narration, and prevailing theme of acceptance makes this story a must-have for any multicultural classroom or library. 

Julián is transformed into a mermaid.

By: Gen McNaughton: M.ED in Professional Studies in Literacy Education, preschool teacher, and aerial enthusiast.

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