Julian Is a Mermaid

By Jessica Love

A glimpse of three women dressed as mermaids leaves one boy filled with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.

"Every choice Jessica Love makes imbues the story with charm, tenderness and humor" New York Times Book Review While riding the subway home with his nana one day, Julian notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train carriage. When Julian gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies and making his own fabulous mermaid costume. But what will Nana think about the mess he makes – and even more importantly – what will she think about how Julian sees himself?

Categories: Picture Books

For readers aged: 3+

  • Publication details:
  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781406386424
  • Published: 07 Feb 2019
  • Price: £7.99
  • Size: 230 x 250 mm
  • Pages: 40

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Customer reviews


'A vibrant, witty celebration of tolerance.' BBC Culture

'“celebratory and ground-breaking”' The Sunday Times Culture/The Sunday Times Ireland

'“The stand-out title this month is a picture book, Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. […] In the bravura feat of understated storytelling, the richness of Julian’s free-floating imagination is caught in images layered with colour, movement, muscle and life, celebrating black and Latino experience. Julian invents a tail and flowing hair, and Nana’s acceptance, as she accompanies him on a wild parade of mermaids, will leave the reader filler with joy.”' The Guardian

'This is Jessica Love’s debut picture book, and every choice she makes — the spare text, a color palette both muted and lively, full-bleed pages that make even subway cars and apartment rooms feel as expansive as the ocean — imbues the story with charm, tenderness and humor…Alongside Julián, readers learn that anyone can be a mermaid: All it takes is love and acceptance, a little imagination and a big swishy tail.' The New York Times Book Review

'Beautiful [...] Magnificent [...] Lovely [...] Magical [...] Gorgeous' RuPaul of RuPaul's Drag Race

'“Capturing the simple, joyful playfulness of a gender creative young boy and his wonderful grandmother this is one of the most heart-moving and beautifully illustrated children’s picture books we’ve ever read. […] This book is a luminous carnival of joy.”' Attitude

'“If there’s one thing you check out this month make it this delightful children’s book [...] it’ll make you want to read it to any young’un in your life immediately. Perfect as a tie-off to Pride month, and to get you in the mood for carnival season, it’s a lesson in self-love for all ages!”' Pride magazine

'Gracefully illustrated and bursting with the warmth and joy of black and Latino culture, this is an exceptional book.' Top 50 Books Every Child Should Read, Good Housekeeping

'“Julian Is a Mermaid is fabulous in every sense. A remarkable debut that should be sashaying off the shelves, it will particularly appeal to those parents and carers with a penchant for RuPaul’s Drag Race.”' The Guardian Online

'“While on the subway with his abuela, Julián notices three mermaids. Mesmerized by their beauty, all of Julián’s thoughts are consumed by wanting to be a mermaid, too, but he is afraid of what his abuela might think. In her author-illustrator debut, Jessica Love delivers a delightful story of celebrating what makes us unique and a joyful read for anyone in need of a little love.”' Time Magazine Online

'“The book contains fewer than a hundred words, and yet it encompasses so much; a longing for transformation, glamour and acceptance, the terror of transgressing and of being rejected, and the soaring joy of winning approval for one's own unique, authentic self. Julian Is a Mermaid doesn't need to be read as a transgender story (although it can be, in the most gentle and age-appropriate sense). More broadly, it is about acceptance, and the power of those closest to children either to shame them into harmful conformity or to welcome and celebrate their self-expression. It is also a book that foregrounds often unsung beauty - whether the curvy, powerful Black and Latin women at the swimming pool, or the old men in shorts and shirts of sultry, vivid colours, sitting in folding chairs.”' Times Literary Supplement

'“A powerful but gentle read Julian Is A Mermaid transcends gender stereotypes, body-shape, ethnicity and family dynamics. Brimming with acceptance and celebrating individuality, there’s something for everyone in this book."' Sarah Yewman, Picture Books Blogger

'“This utterly gorgeous picture book is great for questioning our gender stereotypes but without being at all preachy. “' The Sun

'“With love and acceptance bursting from its pages, Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love is a celebration of being yourself. [...] Sparse text and sublime illustrations give the book a magical feel as real life shifts in and out of Julian’s imagination. This stunning book exudes warmth and joy.”' The Scotsman

'“This joyful picture book with outstanding illustrations has stayed with me all year.”' The Irish Independent

'“This creatively told book does a great job at dismantling gender stereotypes without being preachy.”' Evening Standard

'“Lovely, lovely picture book […]”' Glasgow Evening News

'“Vibrant watercolours are splashed deftly across pages inhabited by stunning Sendak-esque characters, as we find ourselves whisked away on Julian’s journey of self-discovery. Julian is entranced by three women he sees on the subway and with his grandmothers help he begins his transformation into a beautiful mermaid. A joyful celebration of diversity and embracing your own individuality. One of the most beautiful and gently inspiring books of 2018.”' WRD

'“Easily my favourite book of the year. A glorious ode to inclusivity, diversity, transcendence of societally determined “norms”, and fierce, fierce love. Jessica Love has thrown down a marker for her fellow picture book artists — challenge, push, and play. The result is not just artistic perfection, but a book which serves as a giant hug for those who feel their dreams must be deferred for fear they are too different. A book which says, I see you for all of who you are, and you are fabulous.”' Stephanie Cummings, Two In A Tepee

'“Quite possibly one of the best stories I’ve ever read.[…] I’m completely blown away by this book. This is definitely a book we’ll treasure forever. […] [Jessica Love has] now in my opinion written one of the best children’s books of our children’s time.”' Liv, UltimateGirlGang

'SO MUCH LOVE […] absolutely one of my books of the year' Emma O'Donovan, The Book Sniffer

'“This is probably my favourite book ever illustrated. […] To think that this is going to be a book that kids are reading makes my heart beat even faster and harder, it’s gorgeous”' Laura Dockrill on Down The Rabbit Hole children’s book podcast

'“The artwork is incredible […] This is such an important book”' Alex T Smith on Down The Rabbit Hole children’s book podcast

'“This book is sick for so many reasons [...] So many layers to these illustrations. I live for this level of inclusivity and representation.”' Candice Brathwaite, Make Motherhood Diverse

'“[...] one of the most beautiful books we’ve come across... artistically satisfying to a child & adults eye. But most importantly, it’s a book about embracing differences, understanding individuality and freedom to express your inner creativity. We’re totally in love with this one! We recommend this book for your little ones.”' The Motherhood Group

'“Every now and again, a book comes along which captures the sheer greatness of picture books and the unparalleled impact they can have on an audience. ‘Julian is a Mermaid’, is one of those gems. With a sparse but unassuming narrative and rich, inky illustrations, Jessica Love has produced a truly captivating and enriching story which is bursting with empathy and compassion. [...] A wonderfully uplifting read, with refreshingly rich and diverse characters, this story is the perfect book for ALL children out there. [...] This powerful but gentle read, ‘Julian is a Mermaid’ transcends gender stereotypes, body-shape ideals, ethnic background and family dynamics. Brimming with acceptance and celebrating individuality, there’s something for everyone in this book.”' Picture Books Blogger

'“Love’s deep empathy for her characters and her keen-eyed observations of urban life come together in a story of love, understanding, and embracing the mermaid within us all.”' Publishers Weekly

'“Beautifully illustrated, this gentle book shines with the importance of acceptance and individual dreams.”' Angels and Urchins

'“I read it and teared up. [...] So sweet.”' Neil Gaiman

'“Though it could easily feel preachy, this charmingly subversive tale instead offers a simple yet powerful story of the importance of being seen and affirmed.”' Kirkus starred review

'“A picture book story of self-confidence and self-love”' Made For Mums

'“Here’s a picture book that transcends so many boundaries seemingly effortlessly delivering a powerful punch, or rather several, through a wonderfully empathetic affirming story and richly coloured, heart-stoppingly beautiful, watercolour and gouache illustrations. [...] An awesome unforgettable tale of non-conformity, understanding, acceptance and belonging; it speaks to the desire for love and understanding in us all, no matter who we are. A book to be shared and celebrated by anyone and everyone, young or not so young and amazingly, this is Jessica Love’s debut picture book – wow!”' Red Reading Hub

'This picture book for younger readers [..] is understated and delicate and yet so breathtakingly gorgeous. The illustrations are absolutely stunning and the book itself is an incredible example of storytelling.' Good House Keeping

'Gorgeous on every single level' Playing by the Book

'visually stunning' Hey Is That Me

'I love this book' The Next Best Thing to Mummy

'“[...] it really is a beautiful thing for children to read.”' Me, Him, the Dog, and a Baby

'“[...] this book is such a joy to hold and read. From a rainbow of colours and feelings, to sights and sounds throughout, it warms my heart to recommend it to you. I think this book is extremely uplifting, not only does it focus on gender stereotypes and the joy of supporting others in the things they love, it also teaches us as parents/grandparents to support and nourish.”' Kelly Allen (writer)

'“Sparse text and sublime illustrations give the book a magical feel as real life shifts in and out of Julian’s imagination. This stunning book exudes warmth and joy.” ' TheScotsman.com

'“Perfect as a tie-off to Pride month, and to get you in the mood for carnival season, it's a lesson in self-love for all ages!” ' Pride

'This is perhaps the most beautiful children's book I've ever read.' Hungermama

'a beautifully illustrated book' Freddie Harrel

'“A beautiful story about love and acceptance, which questions gender stereotypes in a really positive way.”' SevenStories, HooksIntoBooks, Autumn Pack.

'“An inspirational picture book that celebrates individuality, self-discovery, acceptance, gender identity, beauty and love. Highly recommended.”' Brenda Marshall, Carousel

'“A beautiful, inspiring and empowering book, this should be a must read for all readers, young and old.”' The School Librarian

'“Julian Is A Mermaid has a powerful message, beautiful illustrations full of sass and energy and a sparse text that brilliantly conveys all the character’s emotions with subtlety and humour.”' MiniTravellers.co.uk

'This is a delightful book full of surprises. Julian is an exceptional young person and you will be enchanted to enter his world. The best way I can describe this book is that it teaches you how to be an adult... the perfect Christmas gift.' Amnesty International, Perfect books to give this Christmas

'There are few words in this book, but the ideas are broad, marvellous and magical. Jessica Love’s debut book is a triumph and the energetic drawings, which swish and explode from the pages, support the narrative in precisely the right, utterly fabulous, seriously expressive way.' Gscene

'Mesmerising and full of heart, this is a story about self-confidence and love, and a radiant celebration of individuality.' Teach Primary

'Featured in Nursery World’s ‘Ten Picture Books to Celebrate Diversity’.' Nursery World

'One of the most beautifully illustrated books you may ever lay eyes on … It is a radiant celebration of creative self-expression, and a capsule of Black Pride, while the story itself is simple, understated and full of heart.' Evening Standard

'This colourful celebration of individuality and gender fluidity is full of warmth and acceptance. You'll love the illustrations as much as your child, too.' Hello Magazine

'This is a heart-warming narrative about acceptance and non-conformity.' British Vogue

'A book that celebrates individuality, creativity and identity. Just buy this book and thank us later.' Elle

'Julian Is A Mermaid is a fun and thoughtful book that encourages children to express themselves and use their imagination.' Buzzfeed

'There are so many wonderful books for primary aged children that celebrate inclusivity and diversity; and this one is perfect to inspire a truly sparkly, shimmering show!' Teach Primary

'An incredibly beautiful picture book with minimal text and gorgeous illustrations, this book explores what it means to be yourself and to be loved unconditionally.' Children's Books Ireland - Mind Yourself

'Love's debut, Julian is a Mermaid, is one of my favourite picture books of all time. This sequel is equally enchanting.' The Big Issue

'Step into Julian’s world in this glorious picture book celebrating self-confidence, identity and individuality. [...]A tender lesson in self-love and dismantling gender stereotypes.' The Independent

'I couldn't love this book more – it's so clever, breathtakingly illustrated and one of the tenderest portrayals of acceptance and love I've come across. I cry every time I read it to my kids! Jessica Love's illustrations dance off the page, and I want to be in Julian's (and the mermaids'!) world.' Sophie Dahl

'A deceptively simple story about creativity and acceptance.' Big Issue

'The illustrations are absolutely beautiful – our testers love looking at the patterns and costumes, while the scenes are so simple yet vivid you feel like you are right beside Julian strolling down the street with his Nana.' Evening Standard

'This book is beautifully illustrated and pulls you into Julian’s story and the world around him. It's a way to open up the subject of gender norms and challenging expectations and a delightful read from start to finish.' The School Run

'featured in a list of 10 books every child should read before they are seven for Good Housekeeping.' Good Housekeeping

'Voted one of the 100 greatest picture books of all time' BBC

'Wonderful story about a boy who dresses as a mermaid and thinks his granny will be shocked, but she celebrates it. The illustrations are gorgeous.' The Sun

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