What to do if your grandson is a mermaid

A lot of great picture books about kids and their grandparents have been published since I named my favorites in a post a while back.

I particularly love Julián Is a Mermaid, which came out in April and tells the story of an Afro-Latin boy in Brooklyn who’s questioning his gender identity.

Subtly and artfully, this picture book depicts the bond between a boy who’s questioning his gender identity and his steady, open-minded grandma.

On the way home from the pool, Julián and his grandma spot three women dressed as mermaids. Intrigued, Julián sets about creating his own mermaid costume out of odds and ends he finds in Abuela’s apartment: a pot of flowers, a lace curtain, some mauve lipstick. He’s worried that she’ll disapprove when she sees what he’s done, but instead—after a pause in which she journeys from shock to acceptance—she hands him some strings of pink beads.

“For me, Abuela?” he says.

“For you, Julián.”

Abuela then takes Julián by the hand and walks him to Coney Island, where the annual Mermaid Parade is in full swing.

Author and illustrator Jessica Love created the book after she discovered that children’s literature about gender nonconformity tends to be “teach-y” and “prescriptive,” she told Kirkus in an interview.

Love uses words sparingly in Julián Is a Mermaid; the story is almost entirely told through her detailed and often fanciful gouache paintings.