Julian is a Mermaid by J. Love
Love, Jessica. Julian is a Mermaid. Candlewick Press, 2018.
Jessica Love’s first book, Julian is a Mermaid, lives up to her last name: it is a book about love. Julian, a young boy, dreams of being a mermaid. He and his abuela (Spanish for grandmother) go swimming every weekend and on the way home, Julian watches women in their mermaid dresses on the subway. He dreams of becoming a mermaid too, and in the end (spoiler), although he worries about his abuela’s reaction to him dressing up as a mermaid, she embraces it and takes him out to what looks like a mermaid parade.
Love does not give the reader a lot of text, but the book is very easy to follow, and the images draw us in to what Julian is thinking and feeling. The muted colours used by Love for background images allows the focus to be drawn to the story itself and what Julian is both experiencing and imagining. The illustrations show us the feelings of the characters. Love manages to capture subtle body language to portray Julian’s emotions, such as him grabbing his arm in embarrassment when he is caught dressing up like a mermaid. The images remind one of the ocean, drawing us in to look deeper.
The book reminds us that gender norms can be broken, and that anyone can be a mermaid. It is a hopeful story about love transcending normative ways of being.
Children will benefit from reading this book as it will remind them that imaginations do not need to be constrained by strictly defined identity roles. Imagining possibilities of identities allows children to feel comfortable exploring identity.
Highly recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Emily Marriott
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).