cover image Mermaid Queen

Mermaid Queen

Shana Corey, , illus. by Edwin Fotheringham. . Scholastic, $17.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-439-69835-1

Admirers of Corey (You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! ) and of Fotheringham (What to Do About Alice? ) will be eager for this picture book biography of another early feminist, the swimmer Annette Kellerman (1886–1975). As a child in Australia, Kellerman had to wear leg braces for some unspecified illness; to strengthen her body, she swam—and grew up to become an endurance swimmer, to invent water ballet and introduce the modern bathing suit to horrified Americans and Europeans (swimming before an audience that included British royalty, Kellerman was made to cover up her bare legs). As in her previous books, Corey includes the details that both humanize Kellerman and make her a legend; for example, trying to cross the English Channel, the swimmer “slurps” soup or hot chocolate through a “long-snouted” cup and eats sandwiches proffered on the end of a long stick. The art is equally powerful: punchy graphics suggest a woman in perpetual motion, with bubble, dot and curve motifs to underscore the aquatic theme. The illustrations are almost too powerful: the high-contrast colors can be dizzying, and the art at times vies with the text for readers’ attention. Ages 4–up. (Apr.)