Review: Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love (Kate Greenaway Shortlisted Title)
When Julian is out and about with his Nana, he sees some beautiful people on the train who remind him of mermaids. Julian would love to be a mermaid. When he gets home, he takes down the lace curtains, sticks some plants in his hair and transforms himself into a mermaid. Julian is worried about what his Nana might think, but it turns out she knows a thing or two about mermaids.
A story about love, respect and embracing our inner-selves.
Nana wins my fictional role model of the year award. When she comes out of the bath to find her little grandson parading around with the curtains around his waist, she sees right away what the game means to Julian. Offering him a string of beads and a hand to hold, she takes him outside to find some other people who are beautiful and brimming with self-confidence. People of all genders, people of all sizes, people in all kinds of costumes and outfits.
There is no dispute that this is about gender. The key moment in the story is when Nana finds Julian and stares at him with a great big disapproving scowl. My heart brimmed at that moment because it became clear that this was about more than a kid dancing around in the curtains on a whim. However, this is a beautiful narrative about all kinds of gender and identity acceptance. Whether a child is questioning their gender or whether they are broadening their definition of what it means to be a boy or a girl, this book offers a comforting message that the happiest people in the world are the ones who love each other and themselves.
The illustrations are a beautiful wash of watercolour which fits perfectly with the theme. It’s as if there is a hint of the watery world even when Julian is in the city. Particular attention has been paid to clothes, with a range of styles, patterns and colours celebrated.
Julian Is A Mermaid made the shortlist for the 2019 CILIP Kate Greenaway Award. I can only imagine the judges saw the same joy and celebration and in the illustrations which touches me more with every read.
A picture book which deserves a place on every shelf. Grab some beautiful items from around the house and prepare to embrace your inner self.
Thanks to Riot Comms and Walker Books UK for my gifted copy of Julian Is A Mermaid. Opinions my own.