Mermaid by Cerrie Burnell & Laura Ellen Anderson

I must be a mermaid,
I have no fear of depths,
and a great fear of
shallow living.

 -Anais Nin

Mermaid (written by Cerrie Burnell and illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson) is about a little boy, Luka, and his friend, Sylvia. Luka lives by the sea and longs to learn how to swim. Sylvia is wheelchair-bound and swims beautifully. They meet by the sea, become friends, and Sylvia teaches Luka how to swim.

reading on a Vespa

reading on a Vespa

Luka dreams that Sylvia is actually a mermaid from a palace under the sea. When she becomes a new student at his school and the other children ask why she is in a wheelchair, he tells everyone that she is a mermaid.

palace under the sea

palace under the sea

As adults, we are quick to label and define a person by his disability. Luka’s friendship with Sylvia shows us that a person is so much more than her disability. To him, Sylvia is not his friend in a wheelchair; she is a mermaid who taught him how to swim. The focus is never on her disability but on her kindness and their friendship.



Growing up, the author Cerrie Burnell lamented the lack of diversity of the characters in the books she read. She was born with a right arm that ends just below the elbow and did not see any disabled characters in books that she could identify with and relate to. In an interview, she said:

We need diverse books. We need to show every child that they belong between the pages of great literature, regardless of heritage, faith, ability or financial security. That’s how you build a lifelong love of reading, and how you promote the inclusive world that I want my daughter and young readers to grow up in.

why are you in a wheelchair?

why are you in a wheelchair?

While we never find out why Sylvia is in a wheelchair or whether she really is a mermaid, the point of the book is that people come in all different shapes, sizes, and ability. The books that our children read should have a diversity of characters too and Mermaid is a rare book that will help children become more sensitive to the different types of people around them. It is available from Book Depository for S$18.16.

Disclaimer: We received the book from Book Depository for review purposes. This review contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. 

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