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The Picture Book Buzz

Mermaid Kenzie: Protector of the Deeps - The Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

As many of you might guess by now, I love the ocean and beaches. I was intrigued by this cover and delighted as I read the book how often I felt like I could just fall into many of these illustrations. This is a beautiful book about an imaginative, spunky girl, whose determination to save the ocean and her sea friends could inspire us all.

Mermaid Kenzie: Protector of the Deeps

Author: Charlotte Watson Sherman

Illustrator: Geneva Bowers

Publisher: Boyds Mills Press/Astra House Publishing (2022)

Ages: 4-8



Ocean pollution, imagination, child activism, and conservation.


Kenzie turns her fierce love for the ocean into action, resourcefully cleaning up the beach after her mermaid-tail swimsuit tangles in floating plastic bags.

When Kenzie slips on her mermaid tail, she becomes Mermaid Kenzie, protector of the deeps. One day as Kenzie snorkels around a shipwreck, she discovers more plastic bags than fish. Grabbing her spear and mermaid net, she begins to clean up the water and the shore—inspiring other kids to help.

Beautifully written in African American Vernacular English, this poetic picture book includes back matter with information about how plastic winds up in our oceans and examples of people—some of them kids, like Kenzie—who have worked to protect the sea. Mermaid Kenzie celebrates the ways that all of us, no matter how small, can make a difference.

Opening Lines:


Mama mad. Again.

Everybody know

my name is Mermaid Kenzie.

Protector of the Deeps.

What I Liked about this book:

When McKenzie's love for the ocean and a beach day excursion outweighs her stubborn assertion that "Mermaids don't clean up," she attacks the "monstrous mound of mussy downside-up inside-out jumbled stuff."

Text © Charlotte Watson Sherman, 2022. Image © Geneva Bowers, 2022.

The beautifully, lyrical voice of the text, written in African American Vernacular English, is enticing - "Stones to skip. Sand to castle. Sunbleached sticks to dig for treasure." - and a joy to read aloud "Gray, the heron, drift past, wing almost blocking the sun." It's easy to connect with McKenzie's spunky, inquisitive, and caring personality.

After exploring and playing on the beach, Mermaid Kenzie and Mama head out in their boat to go snorkeling. As they row out a ways, she keeps an eye out for marine life, especially a freckled seal with an adorable heart-shaped blue nose who she's named Cocoa.

Text © Charlotte Watson Sherman, 2022. Image © Geneva Bowers, 2022.

Donning her tail, Mermaid Kenzie slips into the ocean. Exploring sea fans and shipwrecks, she discovers the area's full of trash, netting, and plastic bags. Worried that pieces of the trash will end up inside her ocean friends, she starts spearing all the trash she can find declaring, in a slightly tweaked refrain, that - “This mermaid cleans up for my sea pals.” It's fun to see what this determined girl and a few new friends can really do. Back matter explains the devastating effects of world-wide garbage patches on marine animals, highlights actions which kids and others have taken to make a difference, and ends with a call to action.

This is such a beautiful and poetic ode to the ocean and a touching wake-up call of the catastrophe we all have the power to help prevent.


- What can you do? Make a promise not to use straws and reduce your use of plastic. Join or form a cleanup group in your neighborhood, at a local park, stream, or beach (

- draw a picture, write a description, or create a story of your favorite outdoor place (beach, park, river, trail). Add or list the animals and birds you often see there? What would you do if you found trash there?

- describe or draw a device or invention you'd create to help clean the ocean.

If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Charlotte Watson Sherman (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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