Friday, June 1, 2018

Picture Book Review: Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. unpgd. Candlewick Press, May 22, 2018. 97807636907458. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Do not skip the end-pages of this delightful and heartwarming story of identity. The story starts on the front end-pages and depicts a pool full of pillowy women clad in bright one-piece bathing suits and bathing caps floating in a pool while our protagonist, Julián swims underwater. The title page depicts Julián  and his abuela in street clothes heading to the subway, followed by three beautiful women dressed as mermaids. Julián  loves mermaids and these three mermaids are entrancing. They get on the subway with him and he soon gets lost in a reverie where he sheds his shorts and tank top. 

The first wordless spread is somewhat reminiscent of Mickey's journey in In the Night Kitchen but Julián's journey is underwater and he keeps his briefs on. Two more wordless spreads depict sea green water where he is enveloped by all manner of sea life. When he emerges, he is sporting a pink tail and his hair flows freely in the water. He is happy. 

He is startled back to reality when abuela informs him that they've reached their stop. It is difficult to read abuela's face when Julián  says that he is also a mermaid as she opens the door to their apartment. She announces that she's going to take a bath and that Julian should be good. Instead, he has a good idea. The wordless spreads that follow are a joy to behold as Julián transforms himself. 

But when abuela emerges wrapped in a towel from her bath, he's suddenly unsure.

I will resist the urge to describe, in detail, each terrific spread in this book. I urge you to read it for yourself and share it widely. Julián is spirited and irresistible and abuela is wise and wonderful! The sandy colored background is perfect for the muted yet colorful watercolors. Here and there red or blue might pop. It's all luscious. Each spread begs to be lingered over. Really. I've read it several times and usually find something new to delight.

And, do not skip the final, triumphant end-pages! I know this is garnering lots of stars and getting all sorts of love around the interwebz. I feel compelled to add to the love. Honestly, this debut is spectacular and celebratory and belongs in all libraries - home, school, classroom, public - everywhere. What a wonderful world it would be if we could all see, accept, embrace and allow people to be who they are.  

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