cover image Swim Team

Swim Team

Johnnie Christmas. HarperAlley, $21.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-305676-3

When Bree and her single father move from Brooklyn to Florida, Bree’s dad encourages her to keep an open mind, emphasizing the way small changes can result in “big unpredictable effects.” The middle schooler enjoys learning math, solving puzzles, and spending time with her father, but experiences worry and self-doubt around making new friends and playing sports—especially swimming, which she’s never learned to do. But she soon befriends neighbor Clara, an enthusiastic swimmer on the future classmates’ underfunded school team, which is on the verge of losing its pool. Bree does everything she can to steer clear of water activities, but swimming seems to be a way of life in Florida, and a full-up elective math course lands her in the only course still open: Swim 101. When elder Ms. Etta, a neighbor at the family’s apartment complex, saves Bree from a near drowning, the two build a close bond that propels Bree into confidence in the water, and into a local swim legend’s legacy. Challenging the idea that “Black people aren’t good at swimming,” this middle grade debut from Christmas (the Angel Catbird series, for adults) details segregation’s generational impact through a warmhearted story of community, Black diasporic identity, and learning, all portrayed in kinetic contemporary art. Ages 8–12. Agent: Judith Hansen, Hansen Literary. (May)