• JoAnne Saldanha

Julian joy in Jessica Love's stunning books.

Sometimes one comes across books that are celebrations of individuality...and just sometimes they burst with love and acceptance. I found this in two books by Jessica Love.




JULIAN IS A MERMAID

One day when Julian and his Nana are on the subway, Julian sees three glorious women, big swishy, over the top hair, wearing beautiful gowns with long mermaid tail trains. Daydreaming about being just like them, swimming with the sea creatures and being gifted a chain by a large fish whose skin is very similar to a dress Nana wears later in the book. On the way back home he tells Nana that he is a mermaid.




Nana’s expression does not reveal what she thinks or feels and Julian wonders. So when Nana is in for her bath, unable to contain himself, Julian makes a glorious crown out of a potted fern, puts on some lipstick and appropriates the net curtain to tie around his waist as a tale. Lost in his mermaid world, Julian prances in front of the mirror.



When Nana sees Julian she frowns and walks away. A wordless spread, leaves the reader wondering how this no-nonsense grandma will react. But in one of the most accepting acts I’ve seen in a picture book, Nana returns with a necklace to enhance Julian’s style and holding his hand takes him to the Mermaid Parade where people are dressed as all kinds of mermaids and sea creatures...a loud, over the top celebration of individuality.



“Like you, honey.”says grandma, leading Julian into the parade.






JULIAN AT THE WEDDING


Julian and his friend Marisol are attendants at a wedding. Julian is going to walk the bridal couple's dogs down the aisle, while Marisol swaps her baseball cap for a wreath of flowers that befit a flower-girl, sprinkling petals.



As the brides kiss, the text reads ‘A wedding is a party for love.’

Bored with the formalities of the wedding, the children take off, finding a weeping willow whose curtain of branches serve as a perfect ‘fairy house’.



When Marisol dirties her dress while mucking about with the dog, Julian proves to be an adept stylist by pulling off his shirt and making a beautiful outfit for her, draping branches of the willow as wings. Their little dress-up game is discovered by the adults who indulge their play without batting an eye-lid.


Love in so many forms, bouncing off the spectacularly illustrated pages


Filled with vibrant illustrations, Jessica Love creates characters that seem so real. The text is minimal and much of the emotion, the expression, the storyline is conveyed through the almost luminous illustrations.


Julian is a Mermaid has been a treasured part of my collection for the past few years. Julian at the Wedding is a recent buy from Kahani tree. Both books are a celebration of individual expression and individuality.


Do pay attention to the outfits, the fabric and the designs as well as the hair and makeup...they exude individuality, self-love and self-confidence.


The books overflow with an abundance of joy, love and acceptance which make them both books that you will not easily forget. They will stay with you and each time you pick them up, you will gasp with delight at Jessica Love’s magic.




SEL Competencies and Skills


Self Awareness (Identity, Recognise Strengths)

Self Management (Initiative and agency)

Social Awareness ( Appreciate Diversity, Kindness and empathy,Respect for others

Relationship Skills (Communication, Relationship building, Social Engagement)

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