5 best children's books about mermaids, chosen by Sibéal Pounder

Published on: 23 August 2018 Author: Sibéal Pounder

Bad Mermaids author Sibéal Pounder knows a thing or two about the magical creatures - so who better to tell us about her favourite books about them?

A photograph of Sibéal Pounder and the cover of her book Bad Mermaids: On The Rocks

Image by Richard Grassie

One of my favourite facts about mermaids is that the explorer Christopher Columbus once saw real ones, although most people now suspect he actually spotted manatees. He wrote in his diary on that day in 1493, 'They are not so beautiful as they are said to be.' He sounds genuinely upset not to have spotted better looking mythical creatures.

Here are some of my favourite, quirky, fascinating and fabulous stories about mermaids...

1. Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

(featuring Julián, the world's greatest mermaid)

An image of the cover of Julián is a Mermaid

This is such a special book and I am obsessed with it. It is in picture book format, but readers of all ages will adore it. The artwork is phenomenal and the message an incredibly special and important one.

Julian loves mermaids and he wants to be one. What stands out for me in this story is the support Julian receives, and just how happy he is by the end.

2. The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

(featuring a mermaid in a swimming pool with a terrible singing voice)

An image of the cover of The Secret of Platform 13

Although not exclusively about mermaids, The Secret of Platform 13 certainly features a lot of them. When I was nine years old, one of my favourite things about this book was the mermaid in the Pimlico swimming pool with the dreadful singing voice (from all the chlorine).

Eva Ibbotson had such a knack for twisting stereotypes for comedic effect, and it's something I love to do in my books, too. You'll adore her characters in this story and there are mermaids aplenty – they swim around the magical Island of Mist, and sneak through the sewers of London.

Read our review of The Secret of Platform 13

3. The Storm Keeper's Island by Catherine Doyle

(featuring merrows, also known as Irish mermaids)

An image of the cover of The Storm-Keeper's Island

I read a proof copy of this recently and it is spectacular. Set on the real island of Arranmore in Ireland, it follows Fionn Boyle on a wild adventure filled with magical memory-filled candles, the sorceress Morrigan, and hints at an army of merrows beneath the waves (I have my fingers crossed they will surface in the sequel).

Shelby, one of Fionn's new friends, explains that merrows are less like mermaids, more like monsters. Those on Arranmore have very little dealing with them, which Shelby decides is probably a good thing: 'I've only just got over my fear of dolphins and their creepy smiles.'

Read our review of The Storm-Keeper's Island

Discover Catherine Doyle's five favourite island books

4. My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O'Hara

(featuring no mermaids, technically)

An image of the cover of My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish

For slightly younger readers, this book series is comedy gold and you'll zip through Frankie's adventures, laughing hysterically as you go.

Technically this book doesn't feature mermaids at all, but it does star a zombie goldfish, which is a mutant fish... and what is also essentially a mutant fish? Correct! A mermaid. (It's not cheating.)

5. Peter Pan by J.M Barrie

(featuring traditional mermaids playing dodgeball)

An image of the cover of Peter Pan

I couldn't make a list of mermaids without including my childhood favourites – the mermaids who float around Marooner's Rock in Peter Pan. They are very much the traditional type that Columbus hoped to see, and upon re-reading, their dislike of Wendy (which seems to be rooted in nothing more than the fact she's also a girl) is of its time.

However, they play a bubble game in the book and when I was a kid I was completely sold on it. The bubbles are multi-coloured and the mermaids (in 'extraordinary numbers') throw them at each other. I imagine it to be something of a dodgeball situation. It would definitely be my first stop in Neverland...

Bad Mermaids: On the Rocks, the second book in Sibéal's series, is out now, published by Bloomsbury. You can read our review of the first book here.

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