Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World- Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid (Katie Mazeika)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World- Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid by Katie Mazeika.

Growing up in Australia, Annette loved to sing and dance, but an illness in childhood weakened her legs to the point of requiring apparatus in order to walk. Hoping to help her regain her love of movement, her parents took her swimming, where she was not only able to strengthen her legs, but to develop a new passion for movement through water. Whether competing in races or performing “ornamental swimming,” a style of underwater ballet she would go on to develop over her entire life, Annette broke records, raised eyebrows, fought unfair laws, inspired fashion trends, and changed the world of swimming, especially for women, forever.

A fascinating story of a lesser-known feminist icon. Not only a groundbreaking disabled female athlete and artist, Annette Kellerman also reinvented swimming fashion for women, which was cumbersome and even dangerously restrictive at the time. Her story and the breadth of her achievements are truly interesting to learn, and Mazeika does a wonderful job in getting all the noteworthy elements of Kellerman’s life story to shine equally while leaving a final product balanced, well-paced, and occasionally exhilarating. The art is also well done, managing to convey aquatic grace and endurance, as well as Kellerman’s determination and talent. One greatly-appreciated page is one that includes swimmer in hijab while explaining that women should be able to wear whatever makes them feel comfortable while swimming; it’s a small but important note on inclusively and body autonomy. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ and I both enjoyed it – overall, a wonderful look at a disabled, female pioneer and the impact of her life’s work. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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