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We’re in a Book Club: Let’s Read “Julián Is a Mermaid"

Your family is officially invited to join CAMP’s weekly book club — crafts and cool stories included. This week we’re reading "Julián Is a Mermaid" by Jessica Love and making merfolk masterpieces.

Margo Gothelf and Sarah Burns

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Can’t make it to your friendly neighborhood CAMP store for our weekly We’re in a Book storytime? We’ve got you covered! We’re in a Book Club lets you follow along each week from home with a book guide, discussion questions, activities, and crafts inspired by each week’s book. And don’t worry about getting all the reading done in advance — it’s not that kind of book club.

This week, we’re reading "Julián Is A Mermaid" by Jessica Love

So, What’s This Book About?

Every Saturday, Julián and his Abuela have the same routine — they take the subway to the pool and go for a swim. One Saturday, on their way home, everything changes for Julián. 

On the subway, Julián notices three women dressed up fabulously like mermaids. He can’t help but admire their flowing hair, sparkly gowns, and overall look. Most importantly, he is in awe of their confidence. When Julián returns home, all he can think about are the mermaids. He wants to be just like them, but one thing is stopping him. What will his Abuela think? 

With his Abuela out of sight, Julián uses his creativity to bring his own mermaid self to life. When Abuela reappears, Julián thinks she will be disappointed. Luckily, he couldn’t be more wrong. Not only is Abuela accepting of Julián’s new identity, but she is also supportive. She brings her grandson a necklace to complete his look and takes him to the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island to show Julián how many others there are in the world just like him. 

In just a few words, Love opens up a world of possibilities. The stand-out star of the book is the illustrations. The hand-drawn pictures bring the story to life, with bright visuals showing Julián in action on his journey to becoming a mermaid. 

Julian Is a Mermaid

Jessica Love

Behind the Scenes With the Author

Julián Is a Mermaid is the debut picture book for Jessica Love. Before stepping into the world of children’s books, Love was a theater actor in New York for 13 years. The heartwarming tale of Julián was developed during her downtime between jobs and backstage at her performances. Love was inspired to share Julián with the world after one of her friends transitioned later in life. She saw the courage it took and wondered what kind of books were available for children to help them understand this subject matter.

Love plays double duty with her debut children’s book and also serves as the illustrator for the award-winning story. To make her illustrations jump off the page, Love used a heavy brown paper with gouache, a chalk-like watercolor. Some of her favorite illustrators include Maurice Sendak, Hillary Knight, and Shel Silverstein. 

The children’s book has won numerous awards, including the Stonewall Book Award, the Klaus Flugge Prize, and the Society of Illustrators Silver Medal. 

Want more from Love? See what Julián and his Abuela are up to in the sequel, Julián At The Wedding.  


Let’s Chat → Book Discussion Questions

Finished with the book and want to talk about it with your child? Us too! These discussion questions will help you get the conversation going in your family.

  1. 1.

    Julián thinks his Abuela will be disappointed when she sees him transform into his true mermaid self. To Julián’s surprise, her reaction is quite the opposite. Abuela accepts and supports him fully. Who supports you, and what do they do that makes you feel supported?

  2. 2.

    2. Seeing the mermaids lets Julián see his true self. How would you describe your true self? Who are the people in your life that help you see your true self?

  3. 3.

    Dressing up as a mermaid empowers Julián to become a new person. Do you like to dress up? How does it feel to take on a different identity or pretend to be someone else when you play dress-up?

  4. 4.

    Jessica Love’s illustrations jump off the page. The book has minimal text and relies heavily on the pictures to tell the story. What do you think the pictures are saying? Which drawing is your favorite?

  5. 5.

    At the end of the story, Julián joins all the mermaids in celebration. Why do you think it is important to celebrate the mermaids? What do you like to celebrate about yourself?

Bring the Book to Life


Want to design your own mer-masterpiece just like Julián? Here’s what you and your child will need to get started.

Merfolk Supplies

  • Merfolk tail and body templates

  • Cupcake liners

  • Gems

  • Glue

  • Markers

  • Scissors

  • Paper

Make Your Own Merfolk

  1. 1.

    Use scissors to cut out the tail and body templates, or trace them onto a piece of construction paper. 

  2. 2.

    Fold some cupcake liners in half and decorate them however you would like. Go with an ombre theme, add in some glitter, or go crazy with polka dots. You can even take inspiration from the book and recreate some of the mermaid costumes from the parade.

  3. 3.

    When your cupcake liners are all decorated, glue them to the tail and add some gems on the bottom for extra sparkle.

  4. 4.

    While you wait for the gems to dry, draw a background for your mermaid to explore. Draw your mermaid at the parade with Julián or send them on an adventure of their own.

  5. 5.

    Decorate and color the mermaid body, and use glue to attach the tail.

  6. 6.

    With your adventure all set, put your mermaid on the background you created, and let them shine!