A Mermaid Tale

Norwell author Jan Brett is known for her exquisitely illustrated children’s stories. Her latest book, “The Mermaid” (Penguin Random House, 2017), is an underwater adaptation of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The book stars an octopus family and a young mermaid named Kiniro who decides to make herself at home in the octopuses’ home of seashells and coral.

“I got the idea for “The Mermaid” while scuba diving off the coast of Okinawa, Japan,” says Brett, who often finds inspiration for her stories while traveling. “A tiny octopus swam right by me and I was amazed at its beauty.”

Brett conducted extensive research to ensure that her drawings would be culturally representative. She studied the intricate designs of kimonos as well as the architecture of houses in Okinawa, Japan to make sure she got the style of the octopuses’ house right. Brett also arranged a trip to the New England Aquarium to visit their giant Pacific octopus, Sy. “I and got to go behind the scenes at the aquarium and learned how octopuses can recognize people and use different propulsion methods,” says Brett. “Took a little artistic license with the illustrations because I knew it would be difficult to capture their changing movements and their ability to camouflage.” Brett also took steps to ensure that children would not be frightened by the octopus’ strange, alien-like head. “One of my young friends suggested that I cover their heads with hats,” says Brett. “It was the perfect solution because it gave the octopuses an attribute that would be familiar to children.”

Brett has written and illustrated over 35 books that have sold over 40 million copies. She will soon be going on a national bus tour to promote “The Mermaid.” She brings posters of the book for her young fans and never leaves home without her easel, often giving short drawing lessons to the children she meets. 

—Brianna Winters

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