A mermicorn is half mermaid and half unicorn—and the mermicorns in a new early reader series by a genderqueer author just might bring a little sparkle into young readers’ lives.
The first book in the series, Search for the Sparkle, by Jason June and illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley (Scholastic), centers on Lucky the mermicorn, a peppy fellow who lives in an undersea world of magic but has yet to find his “sparkle,” his special magic. When he finds a treasure chest full of glittery seashells, with a message to “Share the sparkle,” he wonders if that could be the key to finding his talent. Throw in three undersea friends, oceans of sea-related puns (things are “mer-mazing,” “fin-credible,” and “fin-tastic”), and a hunt for Poseidon’s magical trident, and you have a fun and joyful story just perfect for readers stepping into early chapter books.
The second book, Narwhal Adventure, continues the story of Lucky and the gang as Lucky helps his friend Ruby enter a special baking competition. Their new friend Nelia the Narwhal wants to help, too. An accident with a magic seashell might lead to disaster, however, unless the three of them and their friends can find a clever solution.
On first glance, there’s nothing overtly LGBTQ in these books, although the sparkly aesthetic conveys a definite flamboyant queer vibe. And Lucky, who likes to draw and appreciates when his mane has “just the right swirl,” feels at the very least somewhat gender creative. Jason June describes himself on his website as “a genderqueer writer mermaid,” so that vibe seems deliberate. His author biography at the end of these books notes, too, that when he “finally gets that mermaid tail, he hopes it’s covered in pink scales”—a subtle but positive message about gender creativity and the colors we wear. The third book in the series, Too Many Dolphins, promises more queer inclusion and will feature gay dolphin dads. It and a fourth book are due out later this year.
Early reader titles rarely get the recognition of either picture books or middle grade ones. Jason June brings a verve to these stories, however, that makes them a delight to read. Readers LGBTQ and not will also appreciate the series’ messages of finding oneself and supporting one’s friends. (And I’m going to add this series to the other LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books that I think would make great television shows.) Maybe I’m just a sucker for fish puns, or maybe I feel the need to immerse myself in an upbeat, magical world right now—but if you or your kids feel the same, check them out. There are very, very few LGBTQ-inclusive early reader books, and these not only help fill that gap, but do so with fun and whimsy.