• Julián Is a Mermaid is being celebrated by readers and critics alike. (Jessica Love)Source: Jessica Love
“'Julián Is a Mermaid' reminds us that picture books can make us understand the world differently and better; that they are for everyone."
By
Samuel Leighton-Dore

13 Sep 2019 - 1:13 PM  UPDATED 13 Sep 2019 - 1:13 PM

Julián Is a Mermaid, a children's book by Jessica Love, has taken out the prestigious Klaus Flugge Prize, which is awarded annually to the 'best new children’s illustrator'.

Described as “a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality,” Julián Is a Mermaid has been praised by members of the LGBTIQ+ community for its inclusive depiction of self-expression and gender in young people.

The book's official synopsis reads: While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes - and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself?

Describing the book as "astonishingly beautiful", award judge Julia Eccleshare told the Guardian that Julián Is a Mermaid was a reminder "that picture books can make us understand the world differently and better; that they are for everyone."

She added: "It is a groundbreaking book."

For Love, inspiration for the book came from close to home.

The writer and illustrator grew up with lesbian aunties, and her partner’s older brother had just transitioned when they first met.

“For me, the coolest part has been the way different people respond to different elements in the story,” she said of the publishing experience.

“There are some folks… who are there for the mermaid stuff, and some people who are there for the identity-affirmation stuff. People reach out to me on social media to tell me what it has meant to their families, to tell me that they were Julian when they were little.”

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