Anja Sušanj takes us on a very special journey in The Secret Lives of Mermaids through the narrative voice of Professor Anuk Tola, a merologist at the School of Merology. The book explores the biological evolution and social experiences of Merpeople in an informative and vibrant way. Sušanj frames the story as an encyclopaedia which introduces the history of Merpeople to young readers; we learn about the varying tribes of Merpeople including the Rozali of the Atlantic, the Nayarad of the Pacific, the Ambara of the Arctic Ocean, the Kinman of the Indian Ocean and Freshwater Merpeople. Each section of the book gives the reader a history lesson on the growth of civilisation underwater. Towards the end of the book, there is a noticeable moral issue that Sušanj brings to the surface (pun intended!). The author calls upon the reader to think like an ‘Ocean Defender’ and cleverly raises the issue of sea pollution. This is a very effective message – Sušanj depicts the struggles of Merpeople as they try to swim through plastics and rubbish from the human world. The book concludes with a call to action for the reader to continue the journey by joining the School of Merology and leaves instructions on how to become a merologist.
There are a lot of positives to take from this book; first of all, the illustrations are incredibly enticing. The bright colours and attention to detail really invite the reader into the underwater world of the Merpeople. Secondly, the language is informative while also maintaining a sense of magic and excitement. Overall, I like this book and I think many children will enjoy learning about the majestic lives of Merpeople.