On Jessica Love’s Julián Is A Mermaid

“In an exuberant picture book, a glimpse of costumed mermaids leaves one boy flooded with wonder and ready to dazzle the world … ” –  [X]

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is one of my favourite picturebooks that I’ve serendipitously discovered at my work.

Julián and his abuela are travelling on a city train when Julián spots three women with the most glittery gowns in their car. The women’s hair is flowy, their makeup is impeccable, their posture dramatic, and they remind Julián of mermaids.

SOURCE: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61Kao-Y80yL.jpg

When he and his abuela reach home, Julián tries to turn his daydream of being a mermaid into reality. Borrowing from his grandmother’s closet, Julián transports himself under the sea, where he too can flow and gleam and be who he really is. But his play acting comes to an abrupt end when his abuela comes into his room and finds him in a gown and floral headdress. What happens next turns this already lovely picturebook into a unique, heartwarming tale about an afro-latino child and his grandmother, finding each other and finding community.

This is the kind of picturebook I truly adore. Bright colours, beautiful art style, and few–oh, so few–words. I’ve found that a lot of recent picturebooks don’t get that they are catering primarily to a young audience. Yes, they get read to, but there are only so many things to look at on the page, and once the toddlers are done looking do you really thing they care how pretty and elaborate your metaphors are? Nope. They want story. They want beauty. They want words that trip off the tongue without tangent. This picturebook delivers on all fronts.

SOURCE: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61Ef7nJUJ6L.jpg

There is plenty of gorgeous details to gaze at and short, powerful sentences that move the scenes along. There are long quiet stretches where Julián gets to dive into his world and readers get to take the plunge with him. And then there are the sweet dialogues that will have the adults choking up and the kids learning that yes, there is a place for me, and I have people who will look out for me no matter what. All in about 38 pages and just as many words. It’s simple and absolutely unforgettable.

I may be talking about Julián Is a Mermaid during Pride month, but this is a classic that goes beyond petty constructs like gender and also, time. Highly recommended to any adult who has a little one in their life. Or, like me, just wants to have a good cry once in a while. 

Review: A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo

Review: A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo

HBO’s Emmy-winning Last Week Tonight with John Oliver presents a children’s picture book about a Very Special boy bunny who falls in love with another boy bunny. Meet Marlon Bundo, a lonely bunny who lives with his Grampa, Mike Pence – the Vice President of the United States. But on this Very Special Day, Marlon’s life is […]

I’m a Librarian (A Tinyville Town Book)

I’m a Librarian (A Tinyville Town Book)

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a librarian, so I am perhaps the teensiest bit biased when it comes to books about librarians. But hear me out – I’m a Librarian really is a fantastic board book, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. In fact, the American Library Association’s GLBT Roundtable […]

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, translated by Anne Carson

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, translated by Anne Carson

Sappho. The most famous woman poet of all time (so far), and yet remarkably under-read. Time to fix that. Anne Carson’s translation, published as If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho was irresistible merely from its premise: Sappho lived on the island of Lesbos from about 630 B.C. She was a musical genius who devoted her life […]

The Backstagers Volume 1: Rebels Without Applause

The Backstagers Volume 1: Rebels Without Applause

If you would like to read a balanced and well-written review of James Tynion IV’s, Rian Sygh’s, and Walter Baiamonte’s The Backstagers Vol. 1: Rebels Without Applause, here is Yuriy’s excellent post. This one, on the other hand, is primarily gushing. Because I loved Rebels Without Applause. The volume opens with Jory, who has endured his first […]

The Cover Wars: Asexual Protagonists part 5

The Cover Wars: Asexual Protagonists part 5

Welcome to the Cover Wars, where we judge books according to their covers: art and blurb. Okay, sometimes we have alternate sources of information, but mostly, we stick to what the book itself tells us. Turns out one month was not enough to gaze at all the lovely lovely books featuring ace protagonists. *beams* This […]

The Cover Wars: Asexual Protagonists part 4

The Cover Wars: Asexual Protagonists part 4

Welcome to the Cover Wars, where we judge books according to their covers: art and blurb. Okay, sometimes we have alternate sources of information, but mostly, we stick to what the book itself tells us. This month, the Cover Wars has a theme: books with ace protagonists. Some of these characters are also aro; others […]

The Cover Wars: Asexual Protagonists part 3

The Cover Wars: Asexual Protagonists part 3

Here on the Book Wars’ own Cover Wars, we judge books solely according to their covers: art and blurb. (Okay, sometimes we have alternate sources of information, but hey! We’re only human.) This month, the Cover Wars has a theme: books with ace protagonists. Some of these characters are also aro; others are not. Thanks […]

The Cover Wars: Asexual Protagonists part 1

The Cover Wars: Asexual Protagonists part 1

Here on the Book Wars’ own Cover Wars, we judge books by their covers: front and back, art and blurb. The Cover Wars has a theme this month: books with ace (asexual) protagonists. Some of these characters are aro (aromantic); others are not.   [webcomic by Emily Griggs. Book 1 (of 3) is complete as of […]