Monday, November 2, 2009


"Annette Kellerman loved to make waves."

As someone who has been known to "make a wave or two," I knew, the minute I read the first line, that I was absolutely going to love this book. And I did. MERMAID QUEEN: THE SPECTACULAR TRUE STORY OF ANNETTE KELLERMAN, WHO SWAM HER WAY TO FAME, FORTUNE, AND SWIMSUIT HISTORY tells the story of Annette Kellerman, the Australian woman who invented water ballet and maybe more importantly to many of us, the modern woman's swimsuit.

Annette Kellerman was a sickly child whose father taught her to swim to strengthen her legs. Soon Annette was winning races and setting records. In 1903, however, not many women were athletes, and Annette's mother wished she would choose something a little more artistic. Ignoring all criticism, Annette and her father left Australia and traveled to England, where Annette was the first woman to attempt to swim the English Channel, then to Paris, and finally to Boston's Revere Beach. There, Annette was arrested and had to appear in court to defend her racy bathing suit! The tone of this book is bold and joyful and dashy and fun. And I don't know whether it was the author or illustrator or picture book designer, but they made some choices about font that I think kids (and their adults!) will find really interesting.

The illustrations, by Edwin Fotheringham, are exuberant and splashy and fun. Each page has kind of a "wavish" background done in blues, or greens, or oranges, with cartoonish-characters kind of super-imposed over the waves. Sometimes there are "mini-illustrations," done in water droplets, super-imposed on top of all that. And then there are a few random comments, e.g. "How sweaty! How rugged!" worked into the illustrations. It's kind of hard to explain, but the illustrations really add to joy and exuberance of this book. Kit lit blog extraordinaire, "Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast" did an interview of Shana Corey, and included several of the illustrations. Check them out here.

A splashy, joyful, strong, fun picture book that I can't wait to share with the strong girls and women in my life!


Jone said...

I loved this book too. It is so fun.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Very cool! Will post your review on the Cybils blog sometime this week.