Julian is a Mermaid by J. Love

  • Emily Marriott


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

How to Cite
MarriottE. (2019). Julian is a Mermaid by J. Love. The Deakin Review of Children’s Literature, 8(4). https://doi.org/10.20361/dr29444
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