Updated: Feb 21
Traditionally mermaids have been depicted as blonds with fair skin but in the diverse world we live in today, this stereotyping is no longer appropriate.
Back in 2018, Jackie and her friend, Lois, observed this inconsistency and decided to launch the Five Enchanted Mermaids in a set of products for little girls. The Five Enchanted Mermaids comprised mermaids who are close friends and come from different ethnicities. Jackie and Lois had known each other for over 35 years meeting first in Princeton and over time Lois moved to Los Angeles and Jackie to St Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Each raised two children and the development of these children was a major priority for each of this “dynamic duo”. Each had held significant roles in corporate America but had retired and were looking for projects that would be meaningful.
They gave each mermaid a name that echoed their race - Zari, the black American mermaid, Sofia, the Hispanic mermaid, Emily, the Caucasian American, Jenny, the Asian mermaid, and Anna, the Caucasian European. The philosophy is that “every little girl deserves to have a mermaid that looks like her”.
They commissioned a series of graphics depicting the mermaids and introduced a mermaid party set depicting this diverse group. Since then, they have released a series of picture books and mermaid gifts.
Having named the mermaids, the two ladies started to develop the personalities of each. Each mermaid has a different personality and different strengths and weaknesses so each of the mermaids was given a different special skill or superpower and these are the skills needed for social development of little girls. Zari has independence, Sofia has honesty, Emily has courage, Jenny has confidence and Anna has kindness.
Over time, the personalities of the mermaids have developed and the richer personalities have become entrenched in the more recent books and they have been used to help parents teach their children these important traits.
Using mermaids as the vehicle has worked well. When children are learning, they look to role models and examples. Parents play the most important role in this process, but their messages can be reinforced by fictional examples. Little girls love mermaids as mythical creatures that their imagination can embrace. When a mermaid says to act in a certain way, the child will likely take it to heart. As well, mermaids are somewhat human so children can embrace the characters more easily than unicorns or animal heroes.
In the era of COVID-19, we have faced challenges particularly impacting our young children. They are starved of social contact with their friends and have been confined to their homes learning how to Zoom rather than learning how to make friends. The mermaids have tried to help; the picture books have provided material for parents, and grandparents to read to their children.
While many of the mermaid myths have a darker side, the Five Enchanted Mermaids depict a bright and happy world even though there are difficulties that must be overcome.
The Mermaids have produced a series of videos on YouTube which has provided some advice on the COVID-19 situation, New Year resolutions, and some "Wise Words from the Mermaids". As well, there are “Read Aloud” versions of each of the books in which the author leaves through each of the books reading them aloud. Visit our YouTube channel to view these videos.
So, the lessons we learned are that mermaids are not just mythical characters, they can also become conduits for addressing diversity and aid in the development of our children.
The Five Enchanted Mermaids celebrate diversity in our world and the belief that each child deserves to have a mermaid that looks like them. Through their individual personalities and traits, they weave stories that help teach skills for children in this age group.
The idea for the Five Enchanted Mermaids was born to provide a fun but educational backdrop for girls aged 3 to 7 years. The characters address emotional skills (making friends, resolving conflicts, coping with change, making their own choices and “being good people”) and educational skills (learning to read, the alphabet, counting, symmetrical shapes, time, value of monetary coins/notes) that are important at that age in the development of young girls.
The stories use each of the diverse mermaids as a role model for behavior and values.
LifeMadeSimple, LLC and acclaimed children’s book author, Lois Petren, are collaborating to provide a series of books, party accessories and other appropriate items to support these goals.
Visit us at www.fiveenchantedmermaids.com