In the book world, the month of November is dedicated to reading and sharing nonfiction books. This month I’ll be sharing some non-fiction books that I think would be great for readers, young and old. These books will cover various topics and interests. If you’d like to see previous #NonFicNov posts, click HERE to see more amazing non-fiction books.
ANNETTE FEELS FREE
The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid
By: Katie Mazeika
Published: September 13, 2022
Publisher: Beach Lane Books
Have you heard of Annette Kellerman? I hadn’t before reading this book. She was called “The Original Mermaid” and everyone knew her as the girl who danced underwater. She loved music and there was always music in her home. She loved dancing and twirling, but when she was six, her legs became weak and wobbly. It could have been polio or rickets, but she was no longer graceful, instead, she was clumsy. There was no more joy on Annette’s face.
Her father had an idea and took her to Lavender Bay. She loved how easy it was to move around in the ocean and she felt free again. She danced again and soon became the strongest swimmer in New South Wales.
She kept swimming and dancing underwater and performing to delighted spectators, even breaking long-distance swimming records. She continued to break new records as she traveled around the world. She decided she wanted to be the first woman to swim across the English Channel. Due to her bulky swimsuit, she was only able to make it three-quarters of the way. She continued to compete and even came to the US, but her swimsuit, actually more of a dress, continued to cause her to struggle. She’d had enough and designed her own swimsuit! No more skirt or pantaloons. Of course, there was a huge shock when she arrived at her next race and she was even arrested.
Kids will be shocked at how far swimsuit fashion has come all thanks to Annette Kellerman’s frustration of swimming in a dress. Her refusal to accept her disability and the standards that woman were required to meet made her a inspiring woman all across the world. Girls and women who compete in swimming races, diving competitions, or synchronized swimming have Annette Kellerman to thank.
Author Katie Mazeika lost her own right eye to cancer just before her third birthday. As much as she hated being the kid with an eye patch and hated her disability, she believed her struggles made her the person she is today. Had Annette Kellerman never gotten sick and lost the ability of her legs, she never would have learned to swim. This transformative experience for Kellerman was a powerful reminder to Mazeika that her life was also shaped by her disability.
I highly recommend this book for classroom and homeschool libraries. Her story offers a great lesson for anyone who needs to be inspired to follow their dreams.
Katherine Mazeika is an author, illustrator, and designer with a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design. When she isn’t in the studio, she likes to spend time at the theater, in her garden, or getting lost in a good book. She lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids (Lillian and Jack), and two dogs.