Empathy is built by imagining what other people think or feel, and especially what the world might be like if we dreamed big. I think fantasy books are some of the best types of books to share with children, because they can transport everyday thinking into the realm of “what if?”, which improves critical thinking skills, executive functioning, and empathy for those who are different from us. We can’t build a better world if we can’t first imagine the possibilities of what could be. Plus, fantasy is just plain fun. Many kids are particularly fascinated with merpeople. If this sounds like your child, check out these books that will have them frolicking under the sea!
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, was my favorite book of the past year due to its visionary approach toward children’s natural curiosity and imagination. A young boy, Julian, is riding the subway home on a regular day, when he notices three women dressed up as glamorous mermaids. Julian is inspired to create his own mermaid costume but is worried about what Abuela will think. His exuberance and creativity shine through on every page, and in the end, Abuela not only accepts Julian for the bright spark that he is, but broadens his worldview by introducing him to other merpeople and beautiful dreamers.
Mermaid School by JoAnne Wetzel, is a charmer. How do merpeople learn their AB “Seas” (get it)? The illustrations are an inviting splash of watercolor. This is a good way to help human children feel more comfortable about their new school experience. The diverse merchildren sing, enjoy storytime about children who walk on land, count clamshells, and create art. It’s a soothing, simple, and very sweet fantasy about a topic kids will identify with.
The Mermaid by Jan Brett is a gorgeously illustrated story about Kiniro, who is a mermaid living off the coast of Japan. She finds a lavish and bejeweled cave, which belongs to an octopus family, and she starts to explore it just like Goldilocks and the three bears (“kin-iro” is Japanese for gold). This story is familiar, but the characters are new and refreshing, as Kiniro and her pufferfish companion, Puffy, have a marvelous adventure.