Review: Julián Is a Mermaid

Julián Is a Mermaid
Author & Illustrator: Jessica Love
Candlewick Press

Love’s work is a gift.

A gentle, loving story, Julián is a Mermaid, explores themes of identity, relationships, acceptance and love.  Only spanning a few hours, the story encapsulates how an adult, in this case the child’s grandmother, can recognize the need for self-expression even in a young child. If this book is not in your child’s school library, get it in there.

Quick Rating: Buy & Keep


We meet Julián and his Abuela before the story even begins, in the book’s front end papers.  Apparently taking an aerobics swimming class at the local Y, Julián’s Abuela has him along for the class. On the subway ride home, while perusing a book on Mermaids, Julián encounters three actual mermaids and seems mesmerized by them.  So much so, in fact, that a dream sequence ensues where Julián becomes a mermaid. 

At home, while his Abuela takes a shower, Julián uses household objects to dress up as a mermaid. When Abuela comes out of the shower, Julián is in full mermaid attire, momentarily, and only momentarily, seemingly surprising his Abuela who immediately exits the room.  She returns shortly with a string of pearls.

The story concludes with both attending a mermaid parade by the seaside; Julián, in full mermaid regalia.


Love studied printmaking and illustration at the University of California Santa Cruz, and then went on to study acting at Julliard.  Her illustrations are thoughtful, and her ability to capture character through them, undoubtedly influenced by her time at Julliard, are one of the driving forces behind this storybook.  The dream sequence, where Julián emotes 11 distinct, separate facial expressions in the span of six pages, captures the exuberance of self-discovery with a range worthy of a live character.  And, Love does it on a static page.  Her colors are both vivid, and somehow understated.  The palette is warm and inviting, but distinct enough to demarcate the culture she is showcasing.  Her work is a gift.

Julián sees the mermaids on the subway.

It’s On My Bookshelf

I have seen and heard numerous people refer to this book as a book about a boy that likes to dress up.  Blech.  Yes, I suppose that on one level Julián does enjoy taking on a persona that he does not yet embody.  But this book is not about dress-up.  This book is about self-discovery, about acceptance, and, like most of the books I’m drawn to, about unconditional love. 

Aimed primarily at the 4-8-year-old group, this book stays on my bookshelf because it will take your child at the cognitive age that they present.  You can start reading this book as a book about a boy who likes to be different.  As the child gets older, the conversation can progress into more comprehensive discussions about the LGBTQ+ community.  The book is a tool for conversations  that you will inevitably have. Get ready.

Lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II taught us all that “you have to be carefully taught.”  Let’s make sure we teach carefully from the beginning. [End.]

If you want to purchase a copy of Julián is a Mermaid, and support my endeavors at the same time, you can click on one of the links below. No extra cost to you, and it will help me out! More books to read, more reviews to do!

Please, leave comments! I love a HEALTHY exchange of ideas. After all, critical thinking is essential to life.

Julian is a Mermaid (Support an Independent Bookstore)
Julián is a Mermaid (Hardcover at Amazon)*
Sirenas (Julián is a Mermaid) (In Spanish at Amazon)*

If you’d like to preview the book, here’s read aloud:

More books for this Age Group can be found here.
More LGBTQ+ themed books can be found here.

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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