by Shana Corey
illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Scholastic Press, 2009
The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from her school library.
Each month we'll be visiting nonfiction titles from past as part of our "From the Backlist" series. (The backlist is publishing term for books published in previous years.)
This month is we're celebrating Women's History Month, and one of my favorite picture book biographies is Mermaid Queen. This book is full of kid appeal! Corey eloquently tells the story of Annette Kellerman, a woman who made swimming for pleasure and fitness acceptable for women at the turn of the last century. Kellerman began swimming to strengthen her legs when she was a child. Swimming made her strong, and she loved it. Kellerman enjoyed swimming, diving and showing girls they could be athletes, too. People were shocked when she attempted to swim the English Channel, and she stunned Americans with her athletic bathing suit that showed off her legs. Kellerman's amazing life story coupled with Corey's narrative style and rich word choice make this a perfect book to read aloud.
"When she wasn't racing, she daydreamed about the ballerinas she'd loved as a little girl. She whirled and twirled, She dipped and danced and dived. No was was sure exactly what she was doing, but Annette didn't care one bit. She loved her new invention. It wasn't quite water ballet, and it wasn't quite swimming- it was water ballet!"
Bold computer illustrations will delight readers. Splashes of water in bright blue and orange are used in backgrounds and as frames around illustrations. An author's note give provides readers with further information about Kellerman. It's evident from the source notes that Corey did extensive research when writing the book. Not only is this book fun to read aloud to children, it's also important to show them how far we have evolved as a society. The next time kids see women swimming in the Olympics, they'll think of Annette Kellerman, the Mermaid Queen.
Be sure to visit the Kidlit Celebrates Women's History blog for articles and book reviews by a variety of kidlit authors and bloggers: http://kidlitwhm.blogspot.com/
Here are some other excellent books to share with children during Women's History Month (with links to our reviews).
Elizabeth Leads the Way
by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon