This gorgeous books is currently making waves all over social media – and rightly so. It is a beautifully written modern fairy tale featuring a tender love story between a merman and a lonely fisherman. It’s brought to life by the beautiful illustrations of James Mayhew.
“Far out to sea and deep below the whispering waves lives a merman called Nen. Nen spends his days exploring his underwater kingdom, but something is missing: his heart is empty. So, Nen ventures to the forbidden world above and it is here that he meets Ernest, a lonely fisherman. But can two people from different worlds be together and what will happen when a terrifying storm gathers?”
I am so thrilled to say that Ian and James have written a special piece for this blog talking about their very personal motivations for creating such a beautiful book:
As a child, I always knew I was different and that from an early age I was gay. I spent so much time writing my own fairytales and stories because I never saw anyone like me in the stories I read. Very often I would get in trouble in class for writing mermaid stories when I was supposed to be writing about other things! I hope that Nen and Ernest’s love story comforts and inspires others to be themselves and helps children understand that all families and relationships are different and all of them are wonderful. As my husband and I have been going through the adoption process and are waiting with excitement for our family to be completed, I realise now that books which celebrate diversity and inclusion and love in all its forms are now more important than ever for our children.
The loneliness of not seeing yourself in stories, as a child, to have that sense of dread and shame for being different, was constantly reinforced by the books I grew up with. Although I loved stories, and found their magic and enchantment a necessary escape from reality, all the Happy Ever Afters were straight: the prince always married the princess. Here, at last, is a beautiful, lyrical tale of love and courage for all children. For those who might see themselves in the story, and for the others who might learn empathy and kindness. It inspired a whole new approach to illustrating, with tender, sensitive linesand painterly colours. My own journey to accepting myself as a gay man has been long and difficult, but this project arrived at exactly the right moment; I have finally found the courage to be who I am, and this book is my way of celebrating my own Happy Ending.
It’s so important that children see themselves represented in the books they’re reading, whether that’s merman love story like Ian’s beautiful tale, or people who like them, or someone who’s being bullied – it lets them know that other people have been in similar situations. That they’re not alone.
Diverse titles like Nen are also important to normalise all types of relationships and to open up discussions with children who may not have encountered these in their own homes or wider families. I think that schools in particular have an obligation to expose children to homes, relationships, cultures of all types. Books are a window into the wider world.
*Many thanks to Owlet Press for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*