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Mermaid School book cover image
July 2018
Alfred A. Knopf

College or Unit:

Mermaid School

JoAnne Wetzel
Illustrated by: 
Julianna Swaney

The first day of school is always exciting, especially when you're a mermaid. Julianna Swaney's delightful illustrations swim happily through this rhyming story of Molly and her new friend, Squirt, by JoAnne Stewart Wetzel.

Molly teaches Squirt how to make friends, and in their classroom inside a reef, they all count clamshells for math, accompany trumpetfish in music class and sing the A-B-Seas. At recess, they explore their underwater playground — riding the great kelp swing, shooting up in the waterspout and playing hide-and-seek. A school handbook at the end of the book cautions them to make sure a cave is empty before using it as a place to hide, for octopi might squirt ink on uninvited guests. The very best part of the day is story time. Their teacher, Miss Marina, reads a book that she calls a fantasy, about boys and girls who have no tails and can't breathe undersea. The illustrations here include a story bubble of such fantastic creatures with legs jumping rope and playing hop scotch. When Miss Marina says it's time to sing the Goodbye Song, Molly can't believe it. “How can the day be done?/ The hours here have just flown by,/Cause Mermaid School is fun!”


JoAnne Stewart Wetzel received her bachelor's degree in anthropology at ASU in 1965. At ASU, she swam with the Naiads swimming team as did her roommate, Marilyn Miller. This book is dedicated to Marilyn and the ASU Naiads. As an Air Force brat, she had attended nine schools by 5th grade; making friends at school is the main theme of "Mermaid School."

Praise for this book

"Rhyming verses follow Molly, a mermaid with an upbeat, can-do attitude, as she heads off to Mermaid School. Outside, she finds a similarly fishtailed boy among the kelp. 'Why are you hiding?' I ask Squirt. / 'There's no one here I know.' / 'Well, we can fix that in a flash. / Let's go and say hello.'  ... This may have readers wishing their own first days happened underwater."

Kirkus Review

"A mermaid’s first day of school is strikingly similar to the one experienced by her human counterparts ... the narrator and her classmates ... take ownership of their coral reef cubbies, learn math concepts with seashells and sing their 'A-B-Seas.' They’re also riveted at story time by a 'fantasy' about 'boys and girls who have no tails/And can’t breathe undersea.' The message in the soothing, sing-song rhymes by Wetzel is evident: 'When I arrive, there’s no one here/ That I have met before./ But I can make new friends at school./ I’m always glad for more.'"

Publisher's Weekly