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Black Mermaids in Books: A Booklist for Little Readers, Teens, and Adults (+ Video)


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Black mermaids have been around for a long time, but because they haven't been represented widely in the books and other media that we see, Black mermaids can seem odd to some. African mythology is full of Black mermaids like Mami Wata, for example. After many requests for books about mermaids, we put out a call to our readers for book suggestions and compiled this list. Let's make Black mermaids more visible with books!


The books featured here range in subject matter and in target audience and suggested reading age. Some of the books are fun and light-hearted, while others are more deep and impactful. Note: because some of the books have tough subject matter, please preview them before sharing with the children in your life or before reading anything that might be triggering for yourself.


This list doesn't cover all of the books that share stories of Black mermaids. These books were the ones recommended by the readers in our community and they are written by Black people. We've included the publisher's descriptions and suggested reading ages to each book listed.


From singer, actress, and dancer Vanessa Williams comes a sweet, sparkling story (with a free downloadable song + bonus CD!) about a young girl whose beloved pet fish has wonderful, magical powers.


She gives me bubble kisses, bubble kisses as she swims by in the water.

She never misses with her bubble kisses. And I'm so glad I got her.


A young girl adores her goldfish, Sal. But Sal is no ordinary pet: while she can't fetch a ball or curl up on a lap, she can give bubble kisses that transform the girl into a mermaid and transport her to a world of underwater adventures. There, beneath the sea, they play, sing, and dance with other mermaids. The catchy, breezy, rhymed tale is perfect for bedtime, and the book includes a free digital download and CD of the song. (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 2-10 years)


Purchase: Bookshop



In this captivating reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen's classic, Caldecott medalist and bestselling artist Jerry Pinkney conjures a poignant friendship story and an epic tale of redemption -- the definitive new version for our time.


Melody, the littlest sea princess, is not content just to sing in the choir of mermaids like her sisters. She is an explorer who wonders about what lies above the water's surface . . . especially the young girl she has spied from a distance. To meet her requires a terrible sacrifice: she trades her beautiful voice for a potion that gives her legs, so that she may live on land instead. It seems like a dream come true at first. But when trouble stirs beneath the ocean, Melody faces another impossible choice -- stay with her friend, or reclaim her true identity and save her family.


Legendary artist Jerry Pinkney's singular reinvention of this tale about love and sacrifice empowers young, twenty-first century girls with the strong message that you should never give up your voice . . . for anyone. (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 4-8 years)

Purchase: Bookshop


A mermaid has a message for the earth about our seas and oceans, and she requires your help. Find out what is happening with our oceans and what we can do to save them. What's the Commotion in the Ocean? is a rhyming children's book reflecting on the current happenings in the ocean and what we can do to help. (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 4-8 years)

Purchase: Amazon



New York Times bestselling author Tracey Baptiste and acclaimed illustrator Amber Ren take readers on a fun, creepy, storytime-ready romp through a forest filled with creatures from Caribbean folklore.


I'm looking for a jumbie, I'm going to find a scary one.

But Mama says jumbies exist only in stories. So Naya sets out on a nighttime adventure to find out for herself. No such thing, say the friends she makes along the way.


But Naya is sure that jumbies are real. Some have big mouths. Or thick fur. Or glowing skin. Or sharp teeth. Kind of like her new friends.... Looking for a Jumbie is a gentle, bouncy, and creepily fun read-aloud inspired by traditional Caribbean tales. (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 4-8 years)


Purchase: Bookshop




Gracefully told by Newbery Medalist Virginia Hamilton, this collection of 19 stories focuses on the magical lore and wondrous imaginings of Black women.


Vibrant paintings by Caldecott Medallists Leo and Diane Dillon glow with the drama and mystery of each tale while reflecting the warmth and beauty of the people who first told them. (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 4-8 years)


Purchase: Bookshop



Kenzie turns her fierce love for the ocean into action, resourcefully cleaning up the beach after her mermaid-tail swimsuit tangles in floating plastic bags.


When Kenzie slips on her mermaid tail, she becomes Mermaid Kenzie, protector of the deeps. One day as Kenzie snorkels around a shipwreck, she discovers more plastic bags than fish. Grabbing her spear and mermaid net, she begins to clean up the water and the shore--inspiring other kids to help.


Beautifully written in African American Vernacular English, this poetic picture book includes back matter with information about how plastic winds up in our oceans and examples of people--some of them kids, like Kenzie--who have worked to protect the sea. Mermaid Kenzie celebrates the ways that all of us, no matter how small, can make a difference. (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 4-8 years)


Purchase: Bookshop



Sukey's new step-pa is a mean, bossy man. Every day Sukey wakes at dawn to work in the garden. All her step-pa ever does is watch her and yell if she so much as stops to fan herself. Sukey's ma calls him Mister Jones. Sukey prefers the name "Mister Hard-Times".

One day, Sukey runs away to her secret place by the ocean. There, she calls up Mama Jo, a beautiful black mermaid. Mama Jo's got a surprise for Sukey; a magical kingdom beneath the sea without time or pain. But it's also without people. Is it really better than the world above? (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 5-8 years)


Purchase: Bookshop




Meet Josephine, the most loveable mischief-maker in Barbados, in a magical, heartfelt adventure inspired by Caribbean mythology.


"A heart-wrenching adventure with big laughs and well-earned surprises." --Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review


Eleven-year-old Josephine knows that no one is good enough for her daddy. That's why she makes a habit of scaring his new girlfriends away. She's desperate to make it onto her school's cricket team because she'll get to play her favorite sport AND use the cricket matches to distract Daddy from dating.


But when Coach Broomes announces that girls can't try out for the team, the frustrated Josephine cuts into a powerful silk cotton tree and accidentally summons a bigger problem into her life . . .


The next day, Daddy brings home a new catch, a beautiful woman named Mariss. And unlike the other girlfriends, this one doesn't scare easily. Josephine knows there's something fishy about Mariss but she never expected her to be a vengeful sea creature eager to take her place as her father's first love! Can Josephine convince her friends to help her and use her cricket skills to save Daddy from Mariss's clutches before it's too late? (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 8-12 years)


Purchase: Bookshop




The second installment of the action-packed, fantasy-adventure series, The Jumbies.


Deep beneath the waves, a great enemy awakens . . .


Corinne LaMer defeated the wicked jumbie Severine months ago, but things haven't exactly gone back to normal in her Caribbean island home. Everyone knows Corinne is half-jumbie, and many of her neighbors treat her with mistrust. When local children begin to go missing, snatched from the beach and vanishing into wells, suspicious eyes turn to Corinne.


To rescue the missing children and clear her own name, Corinne goes deep into the ocean to find Mama D'Leau, the dangerous jumbie who rules the sea. But Mama D'Leau's help comes with a price. Corinne and her friends Dru, Bouki, and Malik must travel with mermaids across the ocean to fetch a powerful object for Mama D'Leau. The only thing more perilous than Corinne's adventures across the sea is the jumbie that waits for her back home.


With action-packed storytelling and inventive twists on Caribbean and West African mythology and fairy tales, Rise of the Jumbies is a breathlessly exciting tale of courage and friendship.


An NPR Best Book of 2017, A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2017, A School Library Journal Best Book of 2017 (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 8-12 years)


Purchase: Bookshop



A magical coming-of-age story from Coretta Scott King honor author Jewell Parker Rhodes, rich with Southern folklore, friendship, family, fireflies and mermaids, plus an environmental twist.


It's city-girl Maddy's first summer in the bayou, and she just falls in love with her new surroundings - the glimmering fireflies, the glorious landscape, and something else, deep within the water, that only she can see. Could it be a mermaid? As her grandmother shares wisdom about sayings and signs, Maddy realizes she may be the only sibling to carry on her family's magical legacy. And when a disastrous oil leak threatens the bayou, she knows she may also be the only one who can help. Does she have what it takes to be a hero? Jewell Parker Rhodes weaves a rich tale celebrating the magic within. (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 9-12 years)


Purchase: Bookshop



Set against the backdrop of Caribbean folklore, Lisa Stringfellow's spellbinding middle grade debut tells of a grieving girl and a vengeful mermaid and will enchant readers who loved Kacen Callender's Hurricane Child or Christian McKay Heidicker's Scary Stories for Young Foxes.


Ever since her mother's death, Kela feels every bit as broken as the shards of glass, known as "mermaid's tears," that sparkle on the Caribbean beaches of St. Rita. So when Kela and her friend Lissy stumble across an ancient-looking comb in a coral cave, with all she's already lost, Kela can't help but bring home her very own found treasure.

Far away, deep in the cold ocean, the mermaid Ophidia can feel that her comb has been taken. And despite her hatred of all humans, her magic requires that she make a bargain: the comb in exchange for a wish.

But what Kela wants most is for her mother to be alive. And a wish that big will exact an even bigger price... (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 9-12 years)


Purchase: Bookshop


Bethany C. Morrow's A Song Below Water is the story for today's readers -- a captivating modern fantasy about Black sirens, friendship, and self-discovery set against the challenges of today's racism and sexism.


In a society determined to keep her under lock and key, Tavia must hide her siren powers.


Meanwhile, Effie is fighting her own family struggles, pitted against literal demons from her past. Together, these best friends must navigate through the perils of high school's junior year.


But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice at the worst possible moment.


Soon, nothing in Portland, Oregon, seems safe. To save themselves from drowning, it's only Tavia and Effie's unbreakable sisterhood that proves to be the strongest magic of all.


It's beautiful and it's brilliant."--Jason Reynolds, #1 New York Times bestselling author and National Ambassador for Young People's Literature


"An enthralling tale of Black girl magic and searing social commentary ready to rattle the bones." -- Dhonielle Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Belles. (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 13-18 years)


Purchase: Bookshop



INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - The must-read Black mermaid fantasy series that #1 NYT bestselling author Nicola Yoon calls "epic and original," in which one mermaid takes on the gods themselves. Perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Beasts of Prey.


A way to survive.

A way to serve.

A way to save.


Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata--a mermaid--collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home.


But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi goes against an ancient decree and does the unthinkable--she saves his life. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy the gods.


To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But all is not as it seems. There's the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail . . .


Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she fails, she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it. (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 13 and up)


Purchase: Bookshop



When her village is raided, a teenage girl finds herself on a brutal journey to the coast of Africa and across the Atlantic. Her only comfort is a small child who clings to her for protection. But once they board the slave ship, the child reveals her rebellious nature and warns that her mother--a fierce warrior--is coming to claim them all. (Publisher's rec. reading ages: 13-17 years)


Purchase: Bookshop





Octavia E. Butler meets Marvel's Black Panther in The Deep, a story rich with Afrofuturism, folklore, and the power of memory, inspired by the Hugo Award-nominated song "The Deep" from Daveed Diggs's rap group Clipping.


Yetu holds the memories for her people--water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners--who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly is forgotten by everyone, save one--the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.


Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities--and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.


Yetu will learn more than she ever expected about her own past--and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they'll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity--and own who they really are.


The Deep is "a tour de force reorientation of the storytelling gaze...a superb, multilayered work," (Publishers Weekly, starred review) and a vividly original and uniquely affecting story inspired by a song produced by the rap group Clipping. (Publisher's rec. reading ages: Adult)


Purchase: Bookshop




Your turn! Which books would you add to this list? Let us know.




VIDEO READ ALOUD

Vanessa Williams reading her new picture book BUBBLE KISSES!




 

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