Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Julián is a Mermaid

Title: Julián is a Mermaid 
Author: Jessica Love 
Illustrator: Jessica Love
Publisher: Candlewick 
Publication Date: May 22nd, 2018 
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: In an exuberant picture book, a glimpse of costumed mermaids leaves one boy flooded with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.

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 periwinkle 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? Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love’s author-illustrator debut is a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality. 
What I Think: Kids are amazing. They notice things and they pay attention and sometimes, if you're a certain kind of person who they think they can trust, they'll share things with you. Not a day goes by that I don't find myself in awe of young people and thankful that I get to serve kids as my job. Not to mention that I get to be a mom to two awesome kids. 
     Reading Julián is Mermaid highlights a special moment between a boy and his grandmother and illustrates how easy it is for an adult to see a child and to encourage a child. The snatch of text I pulled below shows two lines of dialogue that I believe are pivotal. Dialogue is a powerful tool for writers. Writers in kindergarten and first grade can add speech bubbles to their drawings. Older writers can make the connection between the speech bubbles in their drawings to the text they write. And even older writers can think about how dialogue is a way to describe and show the reader a multitude of things. 
     In these two lines, we see Julián ask a question and Abuela answer him. When I read these two lines, I see so much about who they are and how they interact. Julián asks a question without revealing what he's thinking. And Abuela responds similarly. She could have dismissed him, she could have shared her thoughts - good or bad - about the mermaids, she could have judged him. But she doesn't. And in not doing so, she gives Julián space to share his thoughts. Asking writers to look at dialogue and think about how much what a character says reveals about him, her, or them helps them then think about how to use dialogue intentionally in their own writing. It's not easy to do but looking at books like Julián is a Mermaid as a mentor texts helps show young writers what is possible. 
    Also! I've been more intentional about talking to young writers about using different languages in their writing. It's important that we let students know that this is okay. If they don't get the message that this is okay, they might not ever try it. 
Snatch of Text: 
"Abuela, did you see the mermaids?"
"I saw them, mijo."

Updated November 25th, 2018:
After sharing my post, I read this blog post from Dr. Laura Jiménez which led me to think more critically about Julián is a Mermaid. I still believe it is a beautiful book and appreciate the relationship Julian has with his grandmother but I realize now that this might be an over-idealistic representation of reality for many LGBTQ+ people. I invite you to read the ideas shared in her blog post. 

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