Summer Reading Day 81: Hi, everyone! Ms. J was having a tough time today with toothaches, but she was still excited to read her story, Splashdance by Liz Starin. In Splashdance, a polar bear named Ursula is practicing diligently for a water ballet with her partner, until one day she arrives to find that the pool has hung up a sign: “NO BEARS.” Her swimming partner subsequently abandons her for someone he can swim with, leaving Ursula feeling alone and abandoned, disheartened by being banned from doing what she loves. Eventually, Ursula finds that she is not alone in being banned, and she and her fellow outsiders concoct a plan to live their dream of competing in the water ballet event.
This book dealt pretty heavily with the concepts of segregation and discrimination, and it did so very well. Certain plot points relating to Ursula being banned from the pool will certainly resonate with adults, such as when the pool manager insists that he will no longer allow bears because they are too hairy while letting other, hairier animals continue to swim there. Ursula’s plight is dealt with in a way that feels realistic and organic to adults, but is simple enough conceptually for kids to understand and identify with. Furthermore, her eventual triumph with her friends shows that while you may not always be able to change the minds of hateful people, good people will always have your back.
Otherwise, the length of the book was fine for Baby Bookworm, and the illustrations were cute and simple. But to us, it was the story that really shone, particularly after the incidences of racial and gender discrimination at the 2016 Rio Olympics. And ultimately, the message is a great one for all little (and big) readers: people may try to hold you back, but never let them destroy what you love to do; just do your best and you will always win.