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Julian Is a Mermaid

Written by Jessica Love

Illustrated by Jessica Love

Featured Books for 3+ readers Featured Books for 5+ readers

LoveReading View on Julian Is a Mermaid

Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | April 2019 Debut Picture Book of the Month | Winner of the 2019 Klaus Flugge Prize | Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2019

Already shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal, Julian is a Mermaid is an outstanding picture book, surely destined to become a classic. Julian is out with Nana when he notices three women dressed as mermaids. In his heart of hearts – we see it described over three fabulous wordless spreads – Julian knows he is a mermaid too and while Nana takes a bath he sets out to transform himself into one.  Nana’s response is life-affirming and the two head out to join the mermaid party. The illustrations dazzle and as a celebration of individuality, the imagination, freedom and love, it can’t be beaten.

Andrea Reece

Other Info

Find out more about the UKLA Book Awards here

Klaus Flugge judge, former Children’s Laureate and multi-award-winning illustrator Anthony Browne said: “Julian is a Mermaid is an astonishingly beautiful book. It’s amazing to realise this is Jessica Love’s first attempt. She has quickly realised how picture books work - the understated words fit so brilliantly with the stunning illustrations, never getting in the way, never trying to do the same job. It’s a perfect picture book.”

Fellow judge Farrah Serroukh, of CLPE adds: “The illustrations say things that it would be difficult for words alone to express. The layers of meaning that can be inferred through each spread are rich, sophisticated and plentiful. Quite simply, it is a stunningly beautiful, heart-warming debut.”

Julian is a Mermaid was partly inspired by a trans friend of Jessica's and questions about how to explain his transformation to younger family members. She says: “It got me curious about what sort of literature there was out there for families looking to have conversations with their children about identity, and how sometimes a person has to do a little more work to create the proper cover for their own book. I wanted to make something that didn’t feel didactic but that gave children a chance to experience this character’s inner life and identify with it. I wanted to give kids who identify with Julian a chance to see themselves reflected, but I also wanted kids who don’t identify with him a chance to get inside his experience and feel what it might be like.’

Julian Is a Mermaid Synopsis

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?

Julian Is a Mermaid Press Reviews

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 Julian, 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

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781406386424
Publication date: 07/02/2019
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781406380637
Publication date: 01/06/2018
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781406386424
Publication date: 7th February 2019
Author: Jessica Love
Illustrator: Jessica Love
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 40 pages
Suitable for: 3+ readers, 5+ readers

About Jessica Love

Jessica Love is an author-illustrator and a New York based actor. She has a BA in studio art from the University of California, as well as a graduate degree from Juilliard. Julian Is a Mermaid is her first picture book. Follow Jessica Love on Instragram here.  

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