The title and jacket art for
Julián Is a Mermaid prefigure a seemingly predictable story about identity and acceptance. But along the way, surprises and delights exemplify the unexpected inevitability of the best storytelling…This is Jessica Love's debut picture book, and every choice she makesthe 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 oceanimbues 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 - Linda Sue Park
Riding home on the subway, Julián is transfixed by three mermaids—voluptuous and self-possessed, with flowing tresses of black, pink, and red, and wearing aqua fishtail costumes (the book is printed on a Kraft-like paper, so the colors seem to literally glow). “Julián loves mermaids,” writes debut author-illustrator Love, and her protagonist falls into a reverie: he’s under the sea, and amid a dazzling school of fish, he sprouts a radiant orange fishtail and waist-length curly hair. While Abuela takes a bath, Julián takes matters into his own hands. He strips down to his underpants, paints his lips purple, fashions a fishtail costume from curtains, and creates a headdress from ferns and flowers. He is, in a word, fabulous. Love lets an anxious beat pass before Abuela takes Julián by the hand, leading him to what some readers may recognize as the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. “Like you, mijo,” says Abuela. “Let’s join them.” 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. Ages 4–8. (May)
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 Love couples the spare narrative with vivid, imaginative, and breathtaking illustrations. A heartwarming must-have for one-on-one and small group sharing. —School Library Journal (starred review) Refreshingly, Spanish words aren't italicized. 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 Reviews (starred review) [Julian] is, in a word, fabulous. Love lets an anxious beat pass before Abuela takes Julián by the hand, leading him to what some readers may recognize as the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. “Like you, mijo,” says Abuela. “Let’s join them.” 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 (starred review) The luminous, lovely, and layered art is what really makes the book...The concluding parade is a confectionary wonder of marine fantasy that many kids will yearn to join, and it might prompt adults to set up their own in- library mermaid celebrations. More importantly, though, those who’ve been shy about their love for dazzle and showmanship will love the idea of a formidable grandparental ally, and they will find this encouraging and empowering. —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review) Julián’s emotional journey takes on depth through small but important details: a wary look in the mirror, a slight inward slump of the shoulders, a chin held high while marching down the street. Love uses vibrant watercolors with gouache and ink and a lively style to create scenes that splash and swirl to life on the page. —The Horn Book (starred review) Across her watercolor, gouache and ink spreads, Love captures the transformative power of being seen...Love's affecting combination of the literary and the visual results in a powerful affirmation of individuality, creative expression and unconditional acceptance. —Shelf Awareness for Readers (starred review) Love’s painted scenes glow against muted backgrounds, with saturated, opaque tones tracing the graceful shapes of the figures. They’re especially striking when Julián gets swept away in a vivid underwater fantasy: a school of sea creatures whirls around him as he transforms into a mermaid. That scene is nicely replicated when he arrives at the parade, which is populated by scores of people in a wide variety of inventive costumes. The affectionate depiction of a broad range of body types and skin tones makes this particularly cheery. —Booklist This beautiful book is one of the very few picture books about a gender non-conforming child. Yet it feels like a celebration of all children who want to do things differently than the parental figures in their lives—and a love letter to the grownups who deeply understand them. —Gothamist There is nothing about this book that is forgettable. In fact, you may have a hard time not thinking long and hard about it after you put it down. A book for mermaids and boys and girls and parents and teachers and booksellers and librarians and . . . Let’s just simplify things and say it’s a book for the human race. —Betsy Bird Jessica Love’s vivid watercolor and gouache illustrations are made even brighter by her decision to paint on brown paper; the richly colored palette pops off the pages, and abundant character is conveyed via the subtlest of facial expressions and body language. Also subtle—and terrifically poignant—is the eloquent encouragement of Abuela’s spare words. A book for the ages, Julián Is a Mermaid is going to make a big splash. —BookPage The illustrations couldn’t be more beautiful, and I love how Julián’s grandmother accepts him for exactly who he is...I’m so grateful for books like these that help foster acceptance and understanding from a young age. —A Cup of Jo (blog) Julián Is a Mermaid makes a fine addition to the best LBGT children’s books. —Brain Pickings (blog) Groundbreaking...here’s a happy picture book that challenges traditional gender stereotypes, rendering one boy free to be himself. —San Francisco Chronicle Right now, I just finished reading ‘Julián Is a Mermaid,’ by Jessica Love, which is an awesome picture book, one of my favorites, and I won’t spoil the end for you, but it has something to do with the mermaid parade. —Charles George Esperanza, The New York Times It’s a story of a little boy who is taken with some elegant costumes, and decides to fashion one of his own. It’s that simple, but it makes a big impression; I can’t recommend it highly enough. —The New York Times Book Review e-newsletter
PreS-Gr 2—Young Julián lives with his abuela and is obsessed with mermaids. He imagines taking off his clothes, growing a tail, and swimming freely through the blue-tinted water with swirls of fish and stingrays. After spying some women on a train dressed as mermaids, Julián later tells his abuela, "I am also a mermaid," then proceeds to wrap a curtain around his waist as a "tail." Ferns in his hair complete the fantastical look, and when his grandmother catches him —is he in trouble? Not at all! In fact, she takes Julián to a festival where people are dressed as fantastically as Julián. Love couples the spare narrative with vivid, imaginative, and breathtaking illustrations. VERDICT A heartwarming must-have for one-on-one and small group sharing.—Amanda C. Buschmann, Carroll Elementary School, Houston
Julián knows he's a mermaid.On the el with his abuela, Afro-Latinx Julián looks on, entranced, as three mermaids enter their car. Instantly enamored, Julián imagines himself a mermaid. In a sequence of wordless double-page spreads, the watercolor, gouache, and ink art—perfect for this watercentric tale—depicts adorable Julián's progression from human to mermaid: reading his book on the el with water rushing in, then swimming in that water and freeing himself from the constraints of human clothing as his hair grows longer (never losing its texture). When Julián discovers he has a mermaid tail, his charming expressions make his surprise and delight palpable. At home, Julián tells Abuela that he, too, is a mermaid; Abuela admonishes him to "be good" while she takes a bath. A loose interpretation of being "good" could include what happens next as Julián decides to act out his "good idea": He sheds his clothes (all except undies), ties fern fronds and flowers to his headband, puts on lipstick, and fashions gauzy, flowing curtains into a mermaid tail. When Abuela emerges with a disapproving look, readers may think Julián is in trouble—but a twist allows for a story of recognition and approval of his gender nonconformity. Refreshingly, Spanish words aren't italicized.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. (Picture book. 3-8)