This year, a picture book caught my eyes out of nowhere and stole my heart. It’s Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Candlewick Press 2018).
Julián Is a Mermaid is a story about a boy and his Nana. One day Julián sees three women spectacularly dressed up as fabulous mermaids (it’s a festival time in the town). Enchanted by the magic he’s seen, he decides to create his very own mermaid costume with curtain and plants. Then he realises the mess he has made. He gets worried about what Nana will think about, not just the mess, but himself dressing up like girls do. However, Nana’s reaction is something unexpected…
When I saw the book cover, I didn’t know anything about the book. I was intrigued by the boy donning a long tail of curtain and a crown of plants with proud air. I thought, What’s he doing?, What’s this book about?
When I opened the book, I instantly fell in love with Jessica Love’s beautiful artwork. Drawn in gouache on brown paper, the colours, textures, expressive brush lines, and character and setting designs – everything in the book is so delightful and unique. Then I fell in love with the story about self-love and a celebration of individuality.
To my delight, quite a few wonderful picture books about self-love and individuality (about gender in particular) – the theme dear to my heart – came out this year. For example, How To Be A Lion by Ed Vere (Puffin 2018) questioned and redefined the meaning of masculinity.
What made Julián Is a Mermaid stand out for me, though, was Nana. The book is filled with the beauty of being seen for who we are by someone who loves us. With love and acceptance from yourself and people around you, anyone can be a mermaid (or whatever you dream to be). What a fantastic debut book by Jessica Love. This has certainly made a big splash!
I’m looking forward to continue sharing my love for picture books through my Book of the Month posts in 2019. Have a happy new year, everyone!