Nen and the Lonely Fisherman by Ian Eagleton & James Mayhew

Published by Owlet Press, 2021.

Nen and the Lonely Fisherman is a heartfelt and tender fairytale. It’s a modern adaptation of The Little Mermaid but with a LGBTQ+ twist. Nen the merman is lonely and longs for true love. He is drawn to the human world and leaves his underwater kingdom, swimming closer to the shore instead. He sings a song of hope which travels across the waves and is eventually heard by a young fisherman named Ernest. As the two meet they feel a special connection, much to the dismay of Nen’s father, Pelagios, who creates a wild sea storm to protect his son. Ernest is thrown overboard and disappears under the sea. Will Nen be able to save him?

This is such a gloriously uplifting book about the power of love. I love its inclusivity and how it celebrates a relationship between two men. Diverse representation in children’s books is hugely important and, by writing the book, Ian said that he wanted to show “that we are all deserving and worthy of a happy ever after.”

The prose is beautiful, as are the powerfully atmospheric illustrations. James Mayhew has used a stunning colour palette of purples and blues to create the enchanting underwater settings and starlit skies. The close up of the two men’s faces as they gaze into each other’s eyes at the end of the story is particularly wonderful and perfectly captures the strength of their love.

The silver foiled cover – where Nen’s scales shimmer and the moonlight sparkles on the sea – is really special. I also love how twice we turn the book sideways and dive down to the depths of the ocean with a vertical double-page spread. The wonderful symbolism of the endpapers deserves a mention too; the stormy, troubled sea at the beginning is replaced by a beautiful calm sea at he end, complete with a magnificent rainbow.

Alongside the theme of inclusivity, there is also a subtle environmental message. We are shown ocean pollution caused by humans but we also see how we can care for our environment. Ernest is kind and caring. He rescues seabirds trapped in fishing nets and collects litter from the shore.

Nen and the Lonely Fisherman is a magical, romantic and very important picture book.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 4+

Thank you to Owlet Press for sending me this book to review.

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