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Move over Ariel, there’s a new mermaid in town

Wednesday 31 January 2024 | Written by Candice Luke | Published in Art, Features


Move over Ariel, there’s a new mermaid in town
Joyana Finch has found the magic in life, writing children’s books on the back of her successful career as an engineer. CANDICE LUKE/ 24012950

Children in the Pacific can now see themselves represented as a fairytale mermaid character in Merio the Polynesian Mermaid.

Cook Islander Joyana Finch has released the first of her new series of fantasy books, Merio and the Pearls of Wisdom. This book tells the tale of Merio the Polynesian Mermaid as she navigates life’s challenges with the help of her family matriarch, her nana.

“It promotes self-confidence, self-reflection, trusting your instincts and maternal love. All wrapped up in the beauty of Polynesia,” says Finch.

The mechatronics engineer has a few children’s books under her writer’s belt already, with a series of rhyming science books; Buzz the Electron, Violet the Photon, Bucky the Carbon Atom, and Ada the AI.

Though Finch has a technical background, a transition into children’s literature made sense, taking the former Miss Cook Islands and Miss South Pacific from mechatronics to magic.

“I’m an engineer. Logic, formulae and structure is my language. However, when it comes to books, I get this warm fuzzy feeling inside.”

Finch uses the “warm fuzzies” to guide her pen. “These books are more than just numbers to me. They are magic.”

She is motivated by the inspiration, influence and joy the books have brought readers so far.

“If you’d told my younger self I’d end up being a children’s book author I would’ve scoffed and asked what went wrong? That’s because I had no idea about the value and power of children’s literature.

“When you’re a child, things stick to you differently. So, to inspire children’s imaginations, is truly to shape the thinking of the next generation. That is the power of children’s books.”

Passionate about connecting the next generation of Cook Islanders to their roots, Cook Islands Ministry of Education (CIMOE) has been on board with Finch in the past, distributing her science series across the country. They’ve teamed up again to get Merio into schools.

“My rhyming science books have started an excitement in our local schools, not only by seeing a local author/engineer, but also by showing them how capable they are to learn complex science.

“But my latest book series is something a little different. It truly is the next level of inspiration to hit our kids’ imagination.”

A few Māori terms are used throughout the book with a glossary in the back. Soon Merio and the Pearls of Wisdom, and Finch’s rhyming science book series will be available in full Māori translation, supported by Te Rito O Taku Peu Tupuna, the Cook Islands Traditional Arts Trust.

Merio and the Pearls of Wisdom is available to Cook Islands schools through CIMOE, and direct to customers online at