Nen and the Lonely Fisherman – Owlet Press Leading the Way
Every so often a book comes along that makes you go – wow. Nen and the Lonely Fisherman is one of these books. If you haven’t already discovered the independent publisher Owlet Press they are certainly one to watch, some truly incredible books already published and more to come.
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Floss and I popped along to a dreamy bookshop – Kenilworth Bookshop – to buy our copy of Nen and the Lonely Fisherman; it’s so lovely to be returning to bookshops and I’d highly recommend having a gander in your local one when you get the chance!
Bookshops, libraries and the local farm shop are the highlight of our week, well alongside reading copious amounts of books snuggled together wherever we go.
TRAILBLAZER – Nen and the Lonely Fisherman
The collaboration between Ian Eagleton and James Mayhew in Nen and the Lonely Fisherman is the perfect blend of magic. On the surface this is a delightful, hope filled twist on the classic story ‘The Little Mermaid’ yet it’s so much more that that. To truly begin to understand the gravity, strength and bravery of this book I’d very much recommend reading this blog post from illustrator James Mayhew and this post from author Ian Eagleton.
Far out to sea and deep below the whispering waves lives a merman called Nen. Nen spends his days exploring his underwater kingdom, but something is missing: his heart is empty. So, Nen ventures to the forbidden world above and it is here that he meets Ernest, a lonely fisherman. But can two people from different worlds be together and what will happen when a terrifying storm gathers? A lyrical, beautiful celebration of love, acceptance and faith, with a gentle message about how we treat our oceans, and each other.
A Book of Bravery and Hope
This isn’t just a book with one story. There’s historical stories and a wish for a different story, a future of hope, all rolled into one. In James’ blog post he talks about the suggestion from some that Nen and the Lonely Fisherman should come with an advisory label for LGBTQ+ content.
What message would this be giving to our children? Personally, I would be horrified to find an advisory label attached to this book.
There’s nothing explicit in the book. Spoiler alert – Nen and Ernest hold hands! Should we have a content warning each time a prince wields true love’s kiss on an unconsenting sleeping beauty! I think this would make for an interesting discussion point when exploring the text.
The layout of the book is very cleverly designed to draw the reader in right from the start. I love exploring a book for the first time with my daughter Floss. As we turned the pages to the first words of the story there was a little ‘ooh’ of excitement as we had to turn the book around to dive deeper into the story vertically.
Mommy it’s like we’re diving into the sea and we’re swimming deeper and deeper into the ocean where it gets darker and more mysterious. Floss – 4 years old
There’s a mixture of full spread images both vertically and horizontally as well as storyboard format too. I’m particularly enjoying the font in this book too.
Both imagery and text intertwine effortlessly to tell the tale of Nen and Ernest. The illustrator’s brush strokes in the paint bringing to life the author’s words – Nen fought through the churning, lashing tempest.
I was completely in awe watching James Mayhew’s video on how to draw a Merman including how he makes those gorgeous sea images. Definitely give it a watch.
Nen and the Lonely Fisherman Reading
If you’d like to know more about the story of Nen and the Lonely Fisherman then listen to Ian Eagleton reading the story below. He’s also got some brilliant suggestions for writing prompt ideas with a twist on the classic fairy tale. I love the idea of telling the story of The Princess and the Pea from the Pea’s perspective!
An Interview with Ian Eagleton
The very lovely Ian, author of Nen and the Lonely Fisherman, kindly answered a few questions I’d got for him.
Which three books do you wish your younger self could have read?
Oh so many! As a kid who was growing up confused about his identify and sexuality, I so wish I had had access to diverse and inclusive stories. I love Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love – it’s a gorgeous, defiant story which tells us that we are all special and deserve to be loved.
I’m currently reading The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by LD Lapinski and it’s epic! It’s such an exciting, thrilling adventure that manages to feel both contemporary and inclusive. As a teenager, I wish I’d read books by Simon James Green and William Hussey. Their books celebrate the LGBT+ community and are written with warmth and passion.
If you were an ocean creature – which would it be and why?
This is VERY easy for me! If it’s a mythical sea creature it would obviously be a merman. I used to pretend I was one when I was young and went swimming. I’d imagine the swimming pool was a swirling ocean full of treasure and would dive to the bottom of the pool to escape the world. I also think I’d quite like to be a dolphin – they seem full of laughter, lightness and happiness.
As a child you’ve said that you found sanctuary in libraries – I can totally relate to this. A big thank you to my local, lovely bookshop that never kicked me out either! Libraries in schools can often be much overlooked – what would your top tips be to a school looking to develop their school library?
This is a very difficult question as I’ve been a primary school teacher and haven’t worked in a school where there has been a proper school library run by a qualified and experienced school librarian. I’d say that school librarians are one of the most important people in a school – their job is different to a teacher and their skills and expertise help children find books that are perfect for them.
I’d also recommend getting in touch with A New Chapter, which is a new online bookshop. They are able to curate sets of books for you relating to the themes you are exploring with your class and are very reasonable.
What I’d really like to see is money that is protected and only allowed to go towards funding a school library and school librarian, and I know that Cressida Cowell and my friend Nicki Cleveland, who is a school librarian, feels very passionate about this too.
Thanks so much Ian for taking the time to answer my questions. I love the book recommendations and ideas for developing libraries. I’m also in agreement, life as a dolphin does seem fun filled.
Exploring Identity Through Names
One lovely way to explore identity with this book would be through the origin of names. Nen is a name of Egyptian origin that means ancient waters. Nen’s father is Pelagios of Greek origin meaning from the sea and Ernest is of German origin meaning serious and warrior. Names chosen with meaning and purpose by the author.
Whether you explore the names in your family or you are a teacher and explore the names in your class you can look at lots of things that may spark discussion:
- Similarities and differences in names – length of names, different spellings, shortening of names.
- Places in the world where names originated from – get a world map and plot where the names originate from.
- What the meaning of a name is – do different names have similar meanings, where might that meaning have come from?
- Is there a primary gender attached to a name? Should there be?
Creative Ideas and Activities
As always, we love to have a few props to bring stories even more to life. There are lots of creative activities you could enjoy to go alongside this story too:
- Turn one of your toys into a Merman using an old sock. You could decorate the sock any way you choose.
- Make paper boats and see how far they will sale.
- Create a special necklace just like the one Nen had and gave to Ernest.
- Compose your own music or song for Nen’s song that he sings each night.
- Explore music as you complete your own Nen paintings. James Mayhew has put together a list of five tracks that wold be perfect for fan’s of Nen here. James has also done a lovely video explaining the creative process of illustrating the book which you will find below.
Nen and the Lonely Fisherman Review
Nen gets a 5 out of 5 in our home and I’d highly recommend it for homes, libraries and schools. Our bookshelves and the books our children are surrounded by should be representational of the wonderfully diverse world we live in. Everyone should be able to find themselves resonating with a character in a book. Nen and the Lonely Fisherman is leading the way, filling our shelves with hope and belonging.
Owlet Press have also produced comprehensive resources to support book talk and activities for Nen and the Lonely Fisherman here.