Is there anything that more perfectly encapsulates the joy of a childhood summer than mermaids? Not really. I know I spent many an afternoon at the community pool swimming with my feet together, pretending to be a dolphin or mermaid. Because there are few things cooler than imagining you’re a mermaid. And in these middle-grade mermaid books, the undersea adventures are more than just imagination. From kids with half-mermaid heritage to mermaids saving the day, these books are full of every kid’s wildest mermaid dreams.
Maybe a Mermaid by Josephine Cameron
Anthoni Gillis is not the kind of kid to believe in mermaids — especially local legends about the Boulay Mermaid. She’s more of a superheroes and comic books kind of girl. But after bouncing around from town to town with her mom for years, she’s ready to make a real friend. She even has a checklist to help. the question is: will she be able to open her eyes to all the possibilities the summer has? Or is she too stuck in her way to believe in the impossible?
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Every summer, one of Maddy’s sisters has gone to spend time with their grandmother in the bayou. This year, it’s Maddy’s turn. She’s heard tales of the strangeness of Grandmere and Bon Temps, so she’s expecting to meet a cranky old woman in a place that’s pretty much the opposite of the city she’s used to. Instead she find a bayou full of incredible creatures — maybe even a mermaid — and it turns out Maddy and her grandmother may just have something in common: an affinity for magic. When an oil spill threatens the bayou, it’s up to Maddy to protect the magic of this place from all those who can’t see it.
Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea by Ashley Herring Blake
After a terrible accident on a kayaking trip, Hazel is left with terrible anxiety and the grief over the mother she’s lost. Along with her little sister Peach and her other mom, they move to Maine to start over. At first, Hazel has no interest in this new town or the old friends her mom runs into there — especially when a daughter Hazel’s age starts going on and on about a local mermaid myth. But then Hazel starts to wonder what life would be like if magic was real? A story about grief, friendship, and mermaids.
Sea Keepers: The Mermaid’s Dolphin by Coral Ripley
Best friends Emily, Grace, and Layla become part of a magical mermaid adventure after saving a dolphin from a fishing net. Because of their help, the girls are chosen as the newest Sea Keepers, the ocean’s most important guardians. But dolphin’s trapped in fishing nets and pollution aren’t the worst of their problems. An evil mermaid has created a torrent of trash — and only the Sea Keepers can stop her.
Rise of the Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
In this sequel to The Jumbies, Corinne LaMer ventures deep into the oceans around her Caribbean home to discover what’s behind the recent rash of missing children. But in order to get help from the powerful jumbie who rules the sea, Corinne must travel across the ocean to Ghana along with a group of mermaids to retrieve a powerful object. Definitely not a sequel that can be read without reading the first book in the series, but kids will love the magical adventures based in Caribbean and West African mythology.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
This beautiful graphic novel about family, communication, and acceptance features an array of fairytales reimagined through various characters’ eyes. Tiến is looking for the right words to have a difficult conversation with his parents. But he’s not sure how to talk to them about what he’s going through in English or Vietnamese. Between stories about princesses and beautiful underwater kingdoms, Tiến and his mom find the means to communicate and show their love for each other. An absolutely stunning story with a beautiful mother-son relationship. And though mermaids only really appear in the take on The Little Mermaid toward the end of the novel, it is still more than magical enough to engage the most avid fairytale lovers.
Aquicorn Cove by Katie O’Neill
Not exactly mermaids, per se, but underwater sea creatures in O’Neill’s adorable, pastel style still deserve a spot on the list for sure. Aquicorns are essentially the sea equivalent of unicorns, but these magical seahorses also have their own underwater kingdom in a coral reef. After coming to help out her old hometown after a devastating storm, Lana discovers the aquicorns — and the havoc pollution is wreaking on their reefs. If something isn’t done soon, the reefs will disappear. And without them, the aquicorns will lose their home and the town won’t have any protection from the storms. But there’s no way that’s about to happen. Not if Lana has anything to do about it.
Everyone who reads this story will want an aquicorn of their own, trust me. And the message about conserving our oceans is perfect for little ones who love the ocean.
The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler
Emily Windsnap has lived on a boat for as long as she can remember. And for as long as she can remember, her mom has done everything in her power to keep her out of the water. What’s up with that, anyway? Turns out, it might just have something to do with the mysterious father Emily knows nothing about. Growing a tail the first time she gets in the water is proof of that. But there’s more to being a mermaid than swimming around in the deep blue sea — and Emily’s determined to find out all about it.
And Then I Turned Into a Mermaid by Laura Kirkpatrick
It’s hard to imagine anything better than turning 13 and finding out you’re part mermaid. Well, maybe not for Molly Seabrook. She already has to dress up as a haddock to promote her family’s seafood restaurant and now she’s going to be sprouting gills? Middle school is hard enough without having to hide such a big fishy secret.
The Fish in Room 11 by Heather Dyer
Toby has lived in a seaside hotel for as long as he can remember. But that’s not the most interesting thing about his life. When he meets a girl named Eliza Flot down by the pier, they get on swimmingly. And the fact that she and her parents are mermaids? No biggie. But then the hotel manager sees a bit of treasure the mermaids gave him and suddenly the hunt is on. In order to keep them safe, Toby has to sneak Eliza and her parents into the hotel — right under the manager’s nose.
Sea Sirens by Amy Chu and Janet K. Lee
Loosely based on a story by Frank L. Baum, Trot and her opinionated cat, Cap’n Bill, find themselves on an underwater adventure as they search for her missing grandfather. Good thing some mermaids from a deep-sea kingdom are there to help, since neither of them are particularly good at breathing under water. But the mermaids need their help. A neighboring kingdom of sea serpents, their sworn enemy, have engaged them in an age-old battle. And before she knows it, Trot finds herself somehow right in the middle of it.
Bad Mermaids by Sibéal Pounder and Jason Cockcroft
Beattie, Mimi, and Zelda’s summer on land with temporary legs is going swimmingly — until they’re ordered back to the ocean immediately. The beloved queen has been taken and some seriously bad mermaids have taken over the Hidden Lagoon in her place. And the girls are the only ones who can stop it! A hilarious tale of clam car adventures and some seriously stylish mermaids ready to take on the day.
The Tantalizing Tale of Grace Minnaugh by Alice Kaltman
Grace isn’t a fan of change, so moving across the country is pretty much her worst nightmare. California isn’t too terrible, though. Especially when she discovers that she turns into a mermaid in saltwater. But why were her parents so determined to keep this from her? At least when she’s in the water, nothing seems too complicated. That is, until she befriends Alfie, a kid obsessed with finding the location of a local shipwreck. Grace knows exactly where it is. But there’s no way she can tell him that — right?