June is coming up quickly (yikes!), so let’s get our Pride collections ready to read and booktalk! I’ll be spotlighting a few new books, and some favorites, this month. Let’s start with a relatively new book: Julian is a Mermaid.
Recommended for readers 4-8
I love this gorgeously illustrated story of a little boy who embraces his inner mermaid. As Julián rides the subway home with his abuela, he spies three women, dressed and gorgeous, and pronounces them mermaids. He daydreams about his own transformation into a mermaid; shedding his tank top and shorts (he keeps his undies on); letting his hair grow wild and free, and develops a fabulous pink and yellow mermaid tail as he heads off to swim with a group of fish. When he and Abuela arrive home, he tells her that he’s a mermaid, too. When she goes to take a bath, Julián transforms himself: he sheds his clothes (keeping those tidy whities on), gives himself a fierce head of hair using Abuela’s fern and some flowers, gets into her makeup, and wraps a curtain tail around himself. Voila! Abuela takes one look at him, hands him a necklace, and takes her fabulous and fierce mermaid to the Mermaid Parade at Coney Island, telling him, “Like you, mijo. Let’s join them.” And they do, following right behind the trio of mermaids the two met earlier on the subway.
What an empowering, fantastic story. I love the New York flavor: the street scenes are pure New York, from the green subway entrances to the faces and body language of every character in this book. A group of girls plays at an open fire hydrant; a seagull hangs out on the street by an older man, sitting out on his chair, with his dog in his lap. The Mermaid Parade is full of fanfare, and the colors pulse off the page. Abuela accepts Julián and takes her grandson to be with his fellow mermaids, but most importantly, Julián accepts himself. The endpapers give us a little more of the story, too: Abuela, Julián, and four older woman enjoy themselves at the public pool; at the end, the same group are all mermaids, enjoying themselves in the sea. Put this on your Pride reading lists, and read this in your storytimes and to your kids often.
Julián is a Mermaid has five starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild Selection.