The Definitive Guide to

Mabel: A Mermaid Fable

Written & illustrated by Rowboat Watkins
Published by Chronicle Books
4.67 / 7.0
- Bookroo Rating
Goodreads Rating - 3.7 / 5.0
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Prices as of Oct 31
Retail Price
used $3.99
Mar 24, 2020
Publication Date
Target Age

What Does Bookroo Think of This Book

“While not remarkable, this quirky mermaid tale shares the important message of friends accepting and appreciating others for their differences.”

Mabel the mermaid is the only one in her family that doesn’t have a mustache. She tries to hide her lack of facial hair with “jaunty shells” and “seaweed falsies,” but she just feels silly, and other fish call her a “nudibranch.” She doesn’t know what that means, but she knows it must be bad . . . so she hides away in holes on the ocean floor. One of the holes has another occupant named Lucky—a seven-legged octopus who also feels diminished by its differences—and the two become good friends. While playing around the coral, fish swim by and call them both “nudibranchs,” and Mabel finally learns what the word means from Lucky’s perceptive point of view: amazing sea slugs! Ending full circle on a cliche but appropriate note, Mabel realizes “everything she ever really needed was already right under her nose.” The muted, colorful watercolor illustrations are adorable in a unconventional way, boasting short and stout mermaids and bright, creative nudibranchs. Watkins intertwines clever touches—such as witty word play, the baby’s mustache, Mabel’s “sort of” juggling, the ignoring of the bullies, and wavy text appearing to ride the ocean current—with his unique and quirky illustrations to display a sweet message of the value of true friends, being oneself, and appreciating differences.

What's This Book About

Publisher Summary

A lovely and laugh-out-loud picture book from the award-winning author of Rude Cakes and Most Marshmallows.

A silly read-aloud tale for kids about being yourself! Mabel isn’t like the other mermaids. Lucky isn’t like the other octopuses. But when they find each other, they discover that true friendship isn’t about how you look, and that sometimes what we are searching for is right under our noses.

The inimitable Rowboat Watkins is back with another humorous tale about being true to yourself.

• A delightful, inspiring read-aloud book for toddlers that celebrates gender diversity and difference • Stylish, accessible art brings this story of being true to yourself to hilarious life. • Rowboat Watkins is a 2010 Sendak Fellow and Ezra Jack Keats honoree.

Young readers of Julian Is a Mermaid, Mary Wears What She Wants, and Exclamation Mark will find much to love in this tale that celebrates individuality and acceptance.

What Kind of Book is Mabel: A Mermaid Fable

Quotes from This Book

  • “Mabel tried hiding her nose behind jaunty shells and by wearing seaweed falsies, but this only made her feel like a clown.”
  • “Suddenly, Mabel realized everything she ever really needed . . . was already right under her nose.”

What Questions Should I Ask My Child

  • Mabel is different because she doesn’t have a mustache, and Lucky is different for only having seven legs instead of eight. What makes you different and unique?

  • Lucky shows Mabel that you don’t need to be like everyone else to be happy. When you see bullies like the puffer fish that call Mabel and Lucky “nudibranchs,” what can you do to be inclusive, kind, and appreciative of others’ differences?

Trusted Reviews & Ratings

Mom of Boys
Mom of three little boys who love books about dragons, whangdoodles and magic.
5.0 / 7.0
The Goodfather
Favorite pastime? Reading with my kids. Just finished Nana Cracks the Case!
4.0 / 7.0
B is for Bookworm
Book-loving mommy-to-be! Recently enjoyed The Hobbit, Becoming, and The Marvelous Magic of Miss Mabel.
5.0 / 7.0

Book Lists That Include Mabel: A Mermaid Fable

Book Topics › being yourself
Bold Children's Books About Being Yourself
Book Topics › beards and mustaches
Children's Books About Beards And Mustaches
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Who Wrote Mabel: A Mermaid Fable

author & illustrator
Rowboat Watkins

I’m the least messy person in my apartment, but that’s not saying much. I also have the shortest legs and am the least spontaneous…by leaps and bounds. Other than my dog. Who is not spontaneous at all. And who also has much shorter legs than me. Although they are proportionally bigger, if we’re being totally honest with each other. Which is not saying much. But it’s true.

Speaking of true things, my wife really truly does call me Rowboat. I think it’s fair to say it never once occurred to my parents to call me Rowboat. So they didn’t. To this day my dad is still convinced my name is Robot. Which it is not. Nothing against robots. I’m pro robot. But I’m a rowboat. With short legs. And an aversion to turtlenecks sweaters and boots.

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What Has Rowboat Watkins Said About This Book

Nothing yet! 🤷 You should let Rowboat know that you want more details about Mabel: A Mermaid Fable!

Rowboat Watkins's Book Dedication

For Maya

What Do Critics Say About This Book

  • “Both message and basic plot are well covered in picture books, however, and this one doesn’t particularly rise above the rest in delivery. Still, the presence of both mermaids and mustaches may heighten its appeal to a broader audience.

    A somewhat special book about being special.”

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  • “Coupled with her open-hearted consideration, Mabel’s sideways glances of embarrassment and dismay offer a winning vulnerability.”

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Book Details

Publication Date:
March 24, 2020
Text Details:
Typeset in Austral Slab Rough
Illustration Details:
The illustrations in this book were made with pencil, watercolor, ink, vintage book paper, and an iMac.
Library of Congress Number (LCCN):
WorldCat Number (OCLC):

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