Simply 7 with Diana Murray: MERMAID DAY

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! The day has finally arrived!  MERMAID DAY by Diana Murray is here!

DianaMDiana Murray has visited my blog numerous times in the past.  She is now the author of over twenty five children’s books, including UNICORN NIGHT, an Amazon Best Book of the Year from the bestselling UNICORN DAY series, and GOODNIGHT, VEGGIES, a Jr. Library Guild Selection. Her poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies. Diana grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two mer-children, and a dog who loves trips to the beach. You can learn more about her at her website.

mermaiddaycover copyHer latest picture book MERMAID DAY is exactly what it sounds like: a celebration of all things mermaid!  In this story the mermaid queen is throwing a party and all the mermaids (and assorted creatures under the sea) are invited.  There’s singing and dancing and all sorts of merriment.  I was thrilled to see that sharks were included (and not excluded as stereotypically are) and I gasped with delight to see critters in the illustrations that I knew and loved, like the sea dragon and the dumbo octopus.  Luke Flowers once again added his personal flair to the story that really make this one unique.  Trust me, if you’re a mermaid fan, then you’ll want to check this book out.  It goes above and beyond cliches and I found my hopeful expectations not only met, but exceeded.

Welcome back Diana!

Me: I’ve been waiting for what feels like forever for this story from you and Luke.  It’s such a perfect addition to both of your work.  What gave you the idea?

Diana: I knew I wanted to write other sequels to Unicorn Day, and mermaids seemed like a natural choice. There were already some mermaids pictured in the third book, Unicorn Christmas. It was fun to imagine what kind of party mermaids might have. I’ve always loved fantasy, both in books and movies. My kids do, too. As a family, we always sculpt mermaids on the beach! And my youngest dressed up as a mermaid for Halloween in preschool.

Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?

Screen Shot 2023-07-02 at 9.05.13 PMDiana: When I wrote the part about the buffet, I initially included “sea cucumber sandwiches”. But someone in my critique group brought up that sea cucumbers are animals, so it probably didn’t make sense to have them get eaten within the context of this particular story. I decided he was right (though I hated to lose the pun) and I changed it to vegetarian “plankton cakes”. I didn’t specify “phytoplankton” vs. “zooplankton”, as I think that would be getting a little too complicated. It never ceases to surprise me, all the strange things that I end up having to discuss or research when I’m writing a story. 

Me: LOL!  That is true.  I adore the illustrations by Luke Flowers.  As always he really brings things to life with all of his additions: the record albums on the end papers, the easter eggs from other books, and the title of the book mer-queen is reading at the end!  LOVE!!!  Did you have any favorite illustrations?

Diana: It’s so hard to pick a favorite illustration. I have heard feedback from readers that their kids loved the part where the shark is dancing and it made them laugh out loud. I also found out later about a super fun surprise that Luke included. The little yellow seahorse is hidden on every page! So I think I would choose that as my favorite since I know my kids would have gotten a big kick out of that. It’s such a nice touch. And of course all the puns he included (like the “Fin-loose” CD) just crack me up!

Me: I loved the variety of sea creatures that showed up here.  They weren’t just the usual and expected, like dolphins and sea turtles.  I saw quite a few surprise critters included, like a nautilus and a sea dragon (among many others).  Was that your idea or Luke’s?

Diana: That was all Luke! He always goes above and beyond with his illustrations. I didn’t specify any creatures other than the ones named in the text. The only exception is, in the scene where the creatures are scared to see the shark, I did have a specific illustrator note suggesting that there could be an octopus releasing ink. So it was cool to see he included that.

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Me: I also love that you included the shark and didn’t just make him a bad guy.  Was that always a part of the story?  What made you decide to invite the shark into the celebrations?

Diana: Whenever I’m working on a new story, I first figure out the beginning, the climax, and the ending. Only then do I begin writing. So yes, in this case, I thought it would be fun to have a shark suddenly arrive. I wanted to capture that same idea of a surprise twist, as well as the feeling of inclusivity that Unicorn Day has. In Unicorn Day, they accept an imposter even though his horn isn’t “real”. In Mermaid Day, the message is similar but slightly different. It’s about challenging expectations. Everyone assumes the shark will be bad. But when they give him a chance, he proves otherwise. That same lesson can be applied to us landfolk as well.

Me: I loved this book for so many reasons.  Are there any plans for a sequel to this book?  (Please say yes!)

Diana: Yes!! And I’ve already seen a final cover and some interiors. For the next one, we will be branching out from strictly fantasy creatures, but it will have those same Unicorn Day elements of an over-the-top celebration, a surprise twist, and a message of inclusivity. The next one will be…(drum roll)…Dinosaur Day!

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Me: Oh my goodness!  I love that!  Yay!  I also loved the variety of mermaids found throughout the book.  Is there one that is your favorite, or one that you are drawn to more than the rest?

Diana: Perhaps the punk rock mermaid with a mohawk and spiky tail. My daughter is goth and I’m happy that Luke included a wide variety of mermaids with different aesthetics and genders, etc. I like how he challenges pre-conceived notions of what a mermaid should look like.

Aww!  Thank you for stopping by today Diana.

Dear readers, if you haven’t had a chance yet to track down this book, MERMAID DAY is officially released into the world tomorrow.  YAY!  It’s a celebration of mermaids, ocean creatures of all shapes and sizes, and inclusion.  This is a story you won’t want to miss.

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