Ten terrific books about mermaids and the underwater world
Published on: 22 May 2023
Author-illustrator Harriet Muncaster share her favourite watery tales
I love reading books about mermaids! There’s just something so captivating, fascinating and magical about the underwater world. Here are some of my absolute favourite mermaid and underwater world books that I have read recently and over the years:
The Mermaid Moon by Briony May Smith
Wow! I REALLY loved the illustrations in this picture book. I love all Briony May Smith’s work so I knew I would love this book even before I read it. The illustrations are STUNNING, and I love the scenes of the mermaid, Merrin, beneath the sea with the shafts of sunlight shining through the aqua water or dappling on the sea bed. There is such attention to detail. Briony May Smith also really manages to evoke that charming feel of a seaside town, which I love. The story is very original, about a festival called the Mermaid Moon where for one night all the sea creatures can swim through the air to explore the human world. Merrin is excited because she will finally be able to see her human friend, Molly’s house for the first time. A lovely story of friendship!
The Peculiar Tale Of The Tentacle Boy by Richard Pickard
This middle grade book is about a boy who comes out of the sea. He’s not technically a mermaid but he has glimmering fishy scales, tentacles for hair and crab claws for hands. How inventive! I loved it. He’s also a really kind-hearted character who you will root for. He meets a girl called Marina who lives in a town called Merlington – known for its seventeen fishmongers – so there are fishy puns aplenty in this book, along with a mystery to get to the bottom of. I thought Tentacle Boy was so imaginative and a fresh take on a story about the sea. I will be reading more by this author!
Adventuremice: Mermouse Mystery by Phillip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre
I was extremely excited to get my hands on the second Adventuremice book, after having read the first one and loved it. I am a huge fan of books about miniature worlds so a story about a little mouse called Pedro setting off to find the legendary mouse islands is right up my street! In the second book, Mermouse Mystery, Pedro discovers a tiny baby mermouse in a rockpool (could there be anything cuter!?) and he goes on a mission to return the baby to its home, discovering a whole underwater mermouse kingdom in the process. The illustrations are stunning and detailed and in full colour. I really, really love the Adventuremice series and hope there will be many more. They make for the perfect first chapter books!
Once Upon A Mermaid’s Tail by Beatrice Blue
I had to buy this picture book the moment that I saw it. The cover alone is just magical and I adore all of the inside illustrations too! They are dreamy and magical and rainbowy. The story follows a little boy who finds a beautiful tiny creature in the sea and takes her home. But he soon learns that creatures thrive better when they are in their own environment. It’s also a lovely and inventive story about how mermaids get their tails!
I Am Not An Octopus by Eoin McLaughlin and Marc Boutavant
Okay, so this book is not actually about mermaids but it has a sea creature theme and I just had to include it because it’s about the cutest little octopus who is afraid of water! I LOVE the illustrations and the juxtaposition of the octopus (Terry!) living life on land – going to the supermarket, walking in the park and eventually getting the confidence to swim by visiting a swimming pool. Such a funny and sweet picture book with a lovely message about overcoming your fears.
Lorali and Aurabel by Laura Dockrill
Oh my goodness I just loved these two YA books when I first read them years ago. The mermaids are fierce, modern mermaids and I adore the mix of teenage themes with the completely fantastical. It’s a combination I personally love! Grit, glitter and glamour. The writing is very poetic, descriptive and evocative. I was so excited when I found out there was a sequel to Lorali and when the second book, Aurabel, came out, I devoured it immediately. These books are a completely unique take on the mermaid idea.
Can You Catch A Mermaid? by Jane Ray
With beautiful, dreamy artwork, flecked with gold this is a story that we’ve had in our bookcase for years. It has an almost haunting quality to it – both in the story and the illustrations. It’s about a lonely girl called Eliza who lives in a little fishing village with her dad. One day she makes friends with an unusual girl, Freya (a mermaid of course!), and they become the best of friends. Eliza wishes that Freya could stay with her forever and does everything in her power to keep her on land until she eventually realises that she has to let Freya go…
Tiddler by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Not technically a mermaid book but a mermaid does briefly appear in it! I think everyone knows Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s books but Tiddler is my absolute favourite of them all. The rhyme is just SO bouncy! I love reading it aloud to my daughter.
Coral by Molly Idle
I will often buy books based on the illustrations alone, and that’s what happened with this picture book. I saw it online and just LOVED the unusual design of the three little mermaids called Coral, Filly and Manta and also the look of the beautiful, soft and dreamy illustrations. I was intrigued to know more! The story is about the three mermaids who look after the coral reef, each doing their part. But when Coral becomes selfish and decides she wants to keep part of the reef all to herself, things get out of balance. It’s a sweet story about sharing and the power of collaboration. There is also another mermaid book by Molly Idle called Pearl which is just as beautiful.
Bloom by Julia Seal
Again, there isn’t actually a mermaid in this picture book but it’s full of jellyfish! Beautiful, colourful, adorable jellyfish who go on a mission to let humans know that the ocean is in danger from pollution and needs to be saved. A great eco message and I was just really drawn to the cute character design of the main character jellyfish called Luna.
I hope you enjoy exploring the magical undersea world with some of these titles just as much as I did! My own new series of mermaid books from the World of Isadora Moon is out now and begins with Emerald and the Ocean Parade.
Bookbuzz is a reading programme from BookTrust that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in 11 to 13-year-olds. Participating schools give their students the opportunity to choose their own book to take home and keep from a list of 17 titles.