The Kids Are All Right

Mermaids, Mental Health, Wrapping Paper, and More!

Happy Tuesday, kidlit friends! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my kid is once again sick for the third time in less than a month of part-time preschool. She’s attended school a total of 5 times. Thankfully, we still haven’t gotten C19, but wow are we making the rounds on every other virus! I hope everyone’s kids have a healthier school year than us.

Bookish Goods

two t-shirts, one pale orange and one dark read, with illustrations of cartoon ghosts reading books

Ghost Boooooks T-Shirt by StardustDesignUS

I really love all the ghostly books T-shirt designs there are. This one with an adult ghost reading to a child ghost is especially cute. $12+

New Releases

Cover of Annette Feels Free by Mazeika

Annette Feels Free by Katie Mazeika (picture book)

This picture book biography tells the story of how Australian Annette Kellerman came to be known as “The Original Mermaid” and how she challenged the laws about what women could wear while swimming, becoming the first woman to wear a one-piece bathing suit. At 6 years old, Kellerman developed a disability and needed to wear braces on her legs. For physical therapy and to help their daughter with mobility, Kellerman’s parents enrolled her in swim lessons, which she quickly took to. Kellerman took the world by storm, swimming the English Channel while drinking tea, daring to ditch her pantaloons while swimming so she could compete with men, and just being a really daring woman in general during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She also appeared in films. Written by a disabled author/illustrator, this biography challenges stereotypes of what it means to be disabled.

Cover of Iveliz Explains It All

Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango (middle grade)

This middle grade novel-in-verse will be one of my favorites of the year. It’s a gorgeous portrayal of mental health and grief that really resonated with me. When 7th-grader Iveliz’s Puerto Rican grandmother moves into her and her mother’s apartment, she hopes everything will get better. Iveliz’s father died in a car accident the year before, and she’s haunted by PTSD and her father’s ghost. But soon things spiral out of control, and her grandmother’s mockery of therapy and Iveliz’s medications isn’t helping anything.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

Several excellent mermaid-themed children’s books have released this year, including the picture book biography mentioned earlier, Annette Feels Free. I thought I’d recommend four more I enjoyed.

Cover of Cadence and Kittenfish by Roth

Cadence and Kittenfish by Judith L. Roth, illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett (picture book)

In this adorable picture book, mermaid Cadence longs for a kitten friend after watching kittens play by the shore. However, playing with a kitten is a bit difficult in the water. Can she find a furry friend to snuggle and play with? A nearby watching otter might be the perfect match for Cadence. This is an excellent read-aloud, and the colorful illustrations are lovely.

Cover of A Mermaid Girl by Rafi

A Mermaid Girl by Sana Rafi, illustrated by Olivia Aserr (picture book)

Heba, who is Pakistani American, is so excited to swim like a mermaid in the pool wearing her brand new yellow burkini, which matches her mama’s. However, when she arrives at the pool, the other kids don’t think she’ll be able to swim in her burkini. At first, she feels self-conscious, but Mama reminds her of all the mermaid girls before her, and Heba finds the confidence to enter the pool and show the other kids her swimming skills.

Cover of Mermaid Days: The Sunken Ship by Lukoff

Mermaid Days: The Sunken Ship by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kat Uno (early reader)

This cute early reader features three stories about mermaid Vera and her friend Octo-kid Beaker. With bright, colorful illustrations and funny and adventurous stories with simple, easy-to-follow prose, this new series is perfect for burgeoning readers. There are currently two books in the series, this one and Mermaid Days: The Sea Monster, with a third to release early next year, Mermaid Days: A New Friend.

Cover of A Natural History of Mermaids by Hawkins

A Natural History of Mermaids by Emily Hawkins, illustrated by Jessica Roux (children’s folklore)

This gorgeously illustrated guide to mermaids for kids ages 7+ follows a fictional, 19th-century explorer as she poses as a man and boards the HMS Challenger, which was a real ship. She takes detailed notes in her notebook as the ship encounters mermaids, including their history and lore. This is the latest book in the Folklore Field Guides series and all of them are so fascinating and accompanied by beautiful illustrations.

Marian decorating wrapping paper, the kids are all right

My husband celebrated his birthday recently, and instead of buying wrapping paper for presents, we decorated paper packaging publishers use when they send me book mail and wrapped his presents in that! It turned out great. All future presents will have homemade wrapping paper from now on.

If you’d like to read more of my kidlit reviews, I’m on Instagram @BabyLibrarians, Twitter @AReaderlyMom, and blog irregularly at Baby Librarians. You can also read my Book Riot posts. If you’d like to drop me a line, my email is

Until next Tuesday!

Margaret Kingsbury