Title: Julián is a Mermaid


Love, Jessica. "Julián Is a Mermaid." Candlewick Press, 2018. Print.

Love, Jessica. “Julián Is a Mermaid.” Accessed November 10, 2020. https://jesslove.format.com/julian-is-a-mermaid.


Julián is on the subway with his abuela when he sees some women dressed as mermaids. He is fascinated by this and plays dress up when they get home while abuela is elsewhere. Abuela walks in on him wearing stereotypically female clothes and makeup, at first in shock. She then helps Julián get dressed up and go to where the mermaids were going: a colorful parade!

Cultural Origins

Jessica Love is an author/illustrator and Julián is her first book. Even though her main character is an Afro-Latinx gender-expressive youth, Love is a white heterosexual cis-woman. On her personal website she has commented on the difficulties behind this type of representation, and the fear she has of creating something in which an audience can see a part of themselves just to feel tricked in some way when they find out more about the author. This story already carries some complexities as far as who is allowed to tell it and in what contexts. In the context of a picture book I see this as acceptable since writers should be allowed to write a variety of different characters, yet if this is told by a storyteller to a live audience I think it would be important for them to share one or more of the identities that Julián presents. This is important because a reader of the book can recognize Julian by the images on the page but that is not the case with an audience watching a storyteller.


The audience for this story would most likely be young children (kindergarten through elementary school) at a school or public library. This could also be performed at a Pride-specific event outside of a library context, whether at a children’s bookstore or kid-oriented activity. I might avoid doing this story in an area that is known for being politically conservative due to possible backlash and harm that could occur at the event.

Adaptation Ideas

I want this story to maintain its uplifting tone with never-ending curiosity. Having a box of props and clothes would be a good way to imitate Julián’s actions while telling the story and then allowing a small audience to engage with the act of dressing up. This could also end with our own “Mermaid Parade”, similar to the one Julián attends at Coney Island with his abuela. I’d also explain to the audience that this is a real annual event they could one day attend. I find this story to be essential to children who have not yet fully formed ideas on gender, allowing them to see that experimentation is good and natural. I’m interested in how the story would change if I were to add more to it, such as the experience that Julián has at the parade and the conversation he would have with his abuela back at home.