'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday, 29 October 2018

Review: Julian is a Mermaid

There is so much to love about this book, it's hard to know where to begin.

Author and illustrator Jessica Love has taken the issues facing children in our contemporary society and given them an understanding voice in this tender, heartwarming and oh-so incredibly beautiful picture book.

Julian is a little boy so enchanted with some women he sees dressed as mermaids on a train that he decides he wants to be just like them.

In three exquisitely rendered double-page spreads we see Julian imagining himself as a mermaid. He dives into the ocean, sheds his clothes, grows his hair and swims with a magical school of fish, beautiful and free in who he wants to be.

Back at Nana's house, Julian has an idea. While Nana takes a bath, he adorns himself with flowers and fronds, a lacy curtain and some of Nana's lipstick, transforming himself into a mermaid. There is a brief moment when Nana emerges from the bathroom where Julian, and the reader, anxiously wait to see if her response to his costume will fill him with shame.

This is a book of few words, but every page tells a richly detailed story. It's a wonderful display of diversity, love and acceptance, as well as a celebration of different body types. But the overall message is sweet and subtle and one for every child: Why can't boys love mermaids, or pink, or jewellery, or simply dressing up?

There is no real agenda in this book. Instead, it is simply a glorious exploration of gender fluidity, imagination and the freedom to be oneself.


Title: Julian is a Mermaid
Author/Illustrator: Jessica Love
Publisher: Walker Books, $24.99
Publication Date: 1 June 2018
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781406380637
For ages: 4+
Type: Picture Book


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