cover image Splash! Ethelda Bleibtrey Makes Waves of Change

Splash! Ethelda Bleibtrey Makes Waves of Change

Elisa Boxer, illus. by Elizabeth Baddeley. Sleeping Bear, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5341-1143-1

Narrating via historical vignettes, Boxer pays homage to the grit of decorated female swimmer Ethelda Bleibtrey (1902–1978). The story begins in 1917 Brooklyn with a view of the protagonist, “spine curved from a disease called polio,” taking to the water per a doctor’s recommendation. Other episodes include her 1919 arrest for removing her swimming socks (typical attire of the day for women); her gold-medal-winning swims at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp; an illicit dive into the Central Park Reservoir, which prompted the creation of N.Y.C.’s first large public pool; and pictures of the figure as a nurse, helping children “believe in their bodies” through swimming. While little time is spent on her path to the Olympics, a repeated refrain ties everything together: “It felt like flying./ It felt like freedom./ It felt like home.” Baddeley layers washes of color for an immersive effect that aptly captures the feeling of being underwater. An author’s note concludes. Ages 7–8. (Aug.)