Bree and her single dad, Ralph, move from Brooklyn to Palmetto Shores, Florida, where he has both an IT training program and a job as a delivery driver lined up. To calm her nerves about moving and starting at a new school, Bree focuses on her favorite things (doing homework with her dad, cooking, and the library), but sometimes intrusive negative thoughts make her doubt herself. Bree, who can’t swim and hates pools, is crestfallen to be placed in the only open elective at Enith Brigitha Middle School: Swim 101. Now her anxious internal dialogue, depicted as heavily outlined, grayscale thought bubbles that are in stark contrast to her sun-drenched surroundings, really run wild. When Bree accidentally falls into the condominium pool and is rescued by her neighbor, Ms. Etta (who happens to be an outstanding swimmer), Bree realizes that she’s found the perfect swimming instructor. Ms. Etta agrees to give Bree lessons – and an informal mini-history of Black people and swimming. Bree surprises everyone, including herself, by winning her first race. Despite some botched flipturns and belly flops, Bree develops into a strong member of Enith Brigitha’s team, which suddenly has a shot at the state championship. Meanwhile, the school district plans to sell the land where the pool is located to Smoothie Palace, but if the swim team starts winning, maybe the plans will change. A rival-to-“swim sister” subplot reinforces the theme of teamwork and adds a layer of drama that middle grade readers will love.
THOUGHTS: Swimming is often under-represented among sports stories, and this one works on every level: an endearing protagonist, bright artwork (including gorgeous underwater panels), representation of young Black swimmers, and exciting races. Readers of Living With Viola by Rosena Fung and New Kid by Jerry Craft will adore it!
Graphic Novel Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD