Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of the live-action remake of Disney’s The Little Mermaid — and, unfortunately, the backlash received because the actress who plays Ariel is — gasp! — not white. The casting of Halle Bailey, no matter how phenomenal she is, or how perfect for the role, has some folks clutching their proverbial pearls because how dare anyone promote diversity?! *insert mega eye-roll here*
Little do those pearl-clutchers know that Halle Bailey is not, in fact, the first Black mermaid — not by a long shot. “Black mermaids are embedded in African diasporic history,” says an article written for UC Riverside. “They originate in African cosmology, thousands of years ago, meant to honor the sacred nature of water.”
Luckily, there’s a savvy librarian by the name of Mychal Threets (@mychal3ts) who’s here to set the record straight. and let everyone know that, yes, there are actually a bunch of stories out there featuring mermaids of color — and he highlighted some of them on his Instagram.
A post shared by Mychal (@mychal3ts)
Side note: the world needs more librarians like Mychal Threets.
Anyway, if you’ve got a mermaid-loving little (or are a fan yourself!), dive into this list of books with Black mermaids that Mychal so graciously curated — we threw in a couple too — head to your local library, or order your own copy. And then share this list with anyone you may know who thinks Ariel has to be white.
The Little Mermaid by Jerry Pinkney
Caldecott medalist and award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney reimagined his own version of the Hans Christian Andersen classic through Melody, a mermaid who isn’t content to stay under the sea with her family and yearns to know what’s above the water’s surface.
The Little Mermaid by Jerry Pinkney$14.69Buy now
Sukey and the Mermaid by Robert. D. San Souci
In this Coretta Scott King Award honoree, Sukey is mistreated by, and deeply unhappy about, her new stepfather — and one day, when she meets a mermaid named Mama Jo, she has to make a decision: should she escape the heartache she’s going through on land to live underwater where there are no people?
Sukey and the Mermaid by Robert D. San Souci$8.99on Amazon.comBuy now
Looking for a Jumbie by Tracey Baptiste
Filled with mythical creatures from Caribbean folklore, Looking for a Jumbie follows a girl named Naya as she sets out on a nighttime journey to prove that “jumbies” — the creatures that Mama says exist only in stories — are actually real.
Looking for a Jumbie by Tracey Baptiste$14.79on Amazon.comBuy now
Mermaid Kenzie: Protector of the Deeps by Charlotte Watson Sherman
Lyrically written in African American Vernacular English (AAVE), Mermaid Kenzie is about a little girl who, disheartened by the amount of pollution in the ocean that she loves so much, slips on a mermaid tail and becomes “protector of the deeps.”
Mermaid Kenzie: Protector of the Deeps by Charlotte Watson Sherman$15.89on Amazon.comBuy now
Oona and the Shark by Kelly DiPucchio
Oona is a mermaid who makes undersea friends easily — except for Stanley the hammerhead shark, an introvert who feels that bubbly, boisterous Oona is just too much. But Oona is determined to become friends in this adorable and charming book.
Oona and the Shark by Kelly DiPucchio$12.99on Amazon.comBuy now
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
In this beautifully-illustrated book, Julián spots three women fabulously dressed as mermaids while riding the subway home from the pool with his grandmother. He decides he wants to make his very own mermaid costume … but what will his Abuela think?
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love$9.89on Amazon.comBuy now
The Princess in Black and the Mermaid Princess by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
As the Princess in Black and her friends are enjoying a day at sea on their boat, the Lively Turnip, they encounter a mermaid princess named Princess Posy who desperately needs their help. But fighting underwater can be tricky when you’re a land-dweller; can they save the day?
The Princess in Black and the Mermaid Princess by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale$6.99on Amazon.comBuy now
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes
In this coming-of-age story, we meet Maddy: a transplanted city girl who falls in love with the bayou — partly because of something there that no one else seems to see. Could it be a mermaid?
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes$7.99on Amazon.comBuy now
A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow
When Kela — who is grieving the loss of her mother — finds a curious-looking comb in a coral cave while exploring with her friend Lissy, she takes it home. But it belongs to the mermaid Ophidia, who knows she must strike a deal no matter how much she hates humans: the comb in exchange for a wish. And in this sparkling debut novel from author Lisa Stringfellow, Kela has just one thing she wishes for — her mother to be alive again.
A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow$11.29on Amazon.comBuy now
Rise of the Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
In another book from author Tracey Baptiste about jumbies — mythological creatures inspired by Caribbean folklore — half-jumbie Corinne LaMer thinks everything is going well since she defeated the evil jumbie Severine. But when local children start getting snatched from the beach, the neighbors eye Corinne with suspicion, and she must clear her name.
Rise of the Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste$13.10on Amazon.comBuy now
Josephine Against the Sea by Shakirah Bourne
Mischief-making Josephine loves to scare off her daddy’s new girlfriends … but when he brings Mariss home, Josephine realizes that she won’t be as easy to scare. Why? Because Mariss is a spiteful sea creature out to replace Josephine in Daddy’s heart.
Josephine Against the Sea by Shakirah Bourne$11.35on Amazon.comBuy now
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
In this teen/young adult fantasy novel, author Bethany Morrow skillfully weaves together the contemporary lives of two Black girls living in Portland with a mythical, folkloric world of sirens.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow$7.59on Amazon.comBuy now
Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen
Another YA novel, Skin of the Sea is the captivating story of a mermaid named Simi, who is responsible for collecting the souls of those who die at sea. But when she does the unthinkable and saves a young boy’s life, she has violated an ancient decree — and there’s a punishment waiting.
Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen$10.85on Amazon.comBuy now
The Little Mermaid Who Lost Her Pearls by Jedda Robaard
For the littlest readers, this interactive board book will delight as babies and toddlers lift the flaps to help a mermaid locate her precious pearls.
The Little Mermaid Who Lost Her Pearls by Jedda Robaard$9.99on Amazon.comBuy now
Chloe and the Mermaid Club by A.M. Luzzader
In this chapter book recommended for ages 6-10, a trio of fun-loving mermaids go on adventures and make the ocean a better place via the Mermaid Club. When Chloe, the president of the club, makes an embarrassing mistake, can her friends help her save face?
Chloe and the Mermaid Club by A.M. Luzzader$8.24on Amazon.comBuy now
The Mermaid Princesses: A Sister Tale by Maya Cameron-Gordon
Anaya, Shante, and Kianna are sisters — but their vastly different personalities mean they like to do things their own way. When a problem arises that none of them are able to solve alone, they learn the importance of teamwork in this colorful book.
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