Reviews of Mermaid Queen
By Shana Corey,
Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Starred Review

Little has been written about Annette Kellerman, the founder of water ballet and modernizer of the female swimsuit; Corey’s lively descriptions and powerful phrasing successfully fill this niche. Despite the societal restraints placed on women in the early 1900s, Kellerman became an accomplished Australian athlete and attempted to swim the English Channel. Combining athletic feats with artistic symmetry, she promoted her sport to girls abroad. She eventually revolutio nized contemporary swimwear, though she faced criticism and even arrest for wearing her swimsuit, viewed as too risqué for American tastes. Text and art blend in their celebration of this spirited athlete. Typography varies to enhance emphasis: “Annette Kellerman loved to make waves [this last in swoopy script],” and dramatic quotations pepper the dynamic text. Digitally rendered art depicts Kellerman as a strong but feminine competitor; dark outlines display her graceful arms outstretched to greet her audience. Fotheringham’s bold, spiraling patterns resemble crashing water; both fiery and cool colors pay homage to this vibrant woman and her sport. (author’s, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

School Library Journal:
Starred Review

Gr 2-5–Kellerman’s name might not be familiar, but this rule-breaking, high-diving, early fashionista will inspire students. Her difficulties walking as a child, which are only hinted at in the book’s illustrations, drove her father=2 0to try to strengthen her legs through swimming lessons. In the early 1900s, before women were allowed to compete in the Olympics, her hard-earned athleticism drew more criticism than compliments. Swimming? Unladylike! Record setting? For the boys! Eager to do something more artistic with her abilities, Annette invented water ballet, and her acrobatic feats drew crowds. Each event described is interesting, but what really shines is Kellerman’s persistent refusal to rest on her laurels. After her attempt to be the first woman to swim the English Channel, and performing for kings and queens, she went on to pioneer the modern woman’s bathing suit, which led to her arrest in the U.S. Fotheringham’s glorious artwork is filled with period details and dress, high-dives and stunts, and priceless expressions on the faces of amazed audiences. The extensive back matter details Kellerman’s further accomplishments and includes citations. This well-written and brightly illustrated account is a perfect pearl.–Sarah Provence, Churchill Road Elementary School, McLean, VA

Publishers Weekly:

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.)