The Little Mermaid

Book review by
Diondra K. Brown, Common Sense Media
The Little Mermaid Book Poster Image
Fresh fairy tale twist focuses on friendship, not romance.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Stands out for positive role models.

Educational Value

Readers will can learn more about the ocean's ecosystem in this underwater fantasy. They can also compare this update to the classic Hans Christian Andersen story and the Disney movie adaptation. 

Positive Messages

As emphasized by one of the main characters, our voices have power and we should never give them up for anything. Also, true friendship is everlasting. 

Positive Role Models

Female empowerment and the importance of friendship take center stage as themes in this rendition of the classic. The story is told through the lens of characters of color. 

Violence & Scariness

The illustrations of an altercation between the Sea Witch and the Sea King may be a bit frightening for some young readers. The Sea which is red and has horns, sharp-looking fangs, and tentacles like an octopus.See creatures swimming near her have bared teeth and fangs, too. 


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Little Mermaid is totally reimagined in this modern version of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale. The all-Black cast is brought to life by Caldecott medalist Jerry Pinkney (The Lion & the Mousein a manner that redefines how we think of the main character, named Melody in this adaptation. In an author's note, Pinkney says, "as in the original, the mermaid chooses to give up her most precious gift and the key aspect of her identity -- her voice -- to pursue her restless curiosity," but this time the sacrifice is made for friendship, not romantic love. The wonderment of the sea, the importance of perseverance and curiosity, and exploration of self-identity are themes. The enchanting artwork is an experience in and of itself. The illustrations of an altercation between the scary-looking, tentacled red Sea Witch with fangs and Melody's dad, the Sea King, may be a bit frightening for some young readers. 

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What's the story?

In THE LITTLE MERMAID, a young mermaid princess named Melody is enchanted by the mystery of the world above. She feels so compelled to find a way to play on the beach with her newfound human friend, a girl named Zion, that she betrays her father's orders and makes a bargain with the Sea Witch to exchange her precious voice for a pair of legs. As in the classic story, Melody's joy on land is fleeting as chaos ensues in her underwater kingdom after she leaves. She has to make the heartbreaking choice between friendship and duty to her family. The all-Black cast provides a diverse and inclusive take on this familiar fairy tale.

Is it any good?

This rendering of the classic tale, set between the fantastical worlds of the sea and the shore, will resonate with audiences who crave more representation in fairy tales. It is refreshing to see a young Black girl serve as a role model based on her sense of adventure, inquisitiveness, and love for her friends and family. This new version of The Little Mermaid allows readers to think critically about who they are, and what's most important to them. 

The characters are brought to life through Pinkey's delicate pencil-and-watercolor illustrations, and the many details tucked in the art will draw readers in. The characters' feelings are palpable and brilliantly portrayed in the story. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how this new version of The Little Mermaid compares with the classic fairy tale and the familiar Disney animated movie adaptation. How is this version different? Which do you like better? How did the ending make you feel? 
  • There's so much going on in the intricate illustrations. What small details and hidden aspects of the story can you find in the art? Which picture is your favorite?

  • Why do you think Melody places her trust in the hands of a stranger, the wicked Sea Witch? How important is listening to your parents' and caregivers' guidance to stay safe?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mermaids and fairy tales

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