In the Swim of Things

mermaid-QueenIf you are looking for a rousing book for Women’s History Month, Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History! by Shana Corey and Edwin Fotheringham (illustrator) is a perfect choice. This biography of swimmer and actress Annette Kellerman highlights many of the challenges women faced around the turn of the century. It was a Cybils nonfiction picture book finalist for 2009.

Annette Kellerman was born in Australia in 1886. When she was young, she suffered from weak legs. As therapy, her father taught her to swim and swim she did. After her legs recovered and became strong, she continued to swim. Eventually she was competing and winning awards. She also is credited with inventing “water ballet,” the early form of modern synchronized swimming.

When she went to England and then United States to perform, she met with resistance, not for her performances, but with her skimpy bathing suits. Annette had learned that swimming in the proper bathing dresses of the time was too difficult, so she designed more form-fitting suits. The suits initially caused a scandal and even led to her arrest, but she soon convinced everyone that it was much healthier to swim unencumbered. From these beginnings, our modern swim suits were developed.

As Shana Corey points out, although Annette had many firsts she also had some setbacks. One setback was her failure to swim the English Channel. At that time only one man had done so successfully. People admired Annette’s effort and she went on to increased fame. Her story is a wonderful way for children to learn that they may experience disappointments, but what may look like failure can turn into adventures and triumphs.

As for the physical look of the book itself, the illustrations in Mermaid Queen are bright, colorful and frothy. You can feel the water, energy and motion on every page. The only criticism I have is the choice of font and font size. The fonts jump around and change size. Some of the fonts are quite frilly. It is fun for an adult to read, but difficult for a reader who is struggling or just learning to read.

Mermaid Queen is another great example of a book about someone who has been all but forgotten in modern times, but whose story is inspiring and deserves to be told.

As a Cybils judge, a copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0439698359
ISBN-13: 978-0439698351


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Lost Between The Pages.

Into the Deep with William Beebe

The first thing you notice about the reviews of Into the Deep: The Life of Naturalist and Explorer William Beebe by David Sheldon is that they are all about William Beebe. David Sheldon has done such a great job of presenting his subject that details of the book are in the background. William Beebe is the star from page one.


And what an exciting star he is. A naturalist, explorer and prolific writer, William Beebe accomplished a great deal in his lifetime. Although called Into the Deep in reference to Beebe’s record breaking descent into the ocean in the pioneering Bathysphere, the story actually covers Beebe’s entire life. Beebe explored nature around his home and made collections as a child. He even had an owl for a pet. Later he traveled around the world, first on collecting expeditions and later to study animals in their natural habitat. After his retirement, he founded a research station in Trinidad. He was a man of many hats, being a naturalist, pioneer in the field of ecology, explorer of ocean depths, and an ardent conservationist. To paraphrase David Sheldon, William Beebe did what many of us only dream about (after all, who gets to have an owl as a pet?)

As for the book, you have to admire people who are more than capable as authors and illustrators, too. David Sheldon has done a lovely job capturing both the exotic animals Beebe encounters and the look of wonder and joy on Beebe’s face. At the end is a “Diving Deeper into the Story” section with more details of Beebe’s life and quotes from his books. A glossary and list of resources are also included, making this book a very useful reference as well as an interesting biography.

I didn’t know much about William Beebe before reading Into the Deep. Now I can’t wait to find Beebe’s books listed in the “Resources” and read more about his adventures.

If you are interested in some ocean-inspired activities, try my Growing With Science blog.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing; New edition (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1580893414
ISBN-13: 978-1580893411


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Playing by the Book.

Earth Scientists: A Fresh View

If you like biographies, then Earth Scientists: From Mercator to Evans is like a candy bowl. It is full of short, sweet pieces. Some of the candy you will recognize, others will introduce you to new tastes and perhaps entice you to look for more.

Lynn Van Gorp has chosen ten scientists from a wide variety of backgrounds, six men and four women. She explores the full range of earth science, from geographers and geologists to zoologists. I have to admit I was a bit surprised to see Rachel Carson included. She didn’t fit my narrower view of earth science, but upon further study it does make sense to include biologists and environmental scientists under the umbrella of scientists who study the earth.

The biographies are laid out in chronological order, giving a picture of the science developing over time through the lives of the people who discovered parts of it. Interestingly, the timeline in the back, “Earth Science through Time,” contains the contributions of other earth scientists not covered in the book. These definitely lead children to want to learn more. For example, we will be researching mud volcanoes today.

Earth Scientists: From Mercator to Evans (Mission: Science)
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Library Binding: 40 pages
Publisher: Compass Point Books (August 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0756542359
ISBN-13: 978-0756542351
Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7 x 0.3 inches

This review copy provided by Capstone Press.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Practically Paradise.