Review – Mermaid Queen

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Subtitle: “The Spectacular True Story of Annette Kellerman, who swam her way to Fame, Fortune and Swimsuit History”

Mermaid Queen. Written by Shana Corey, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham.

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“Annette Kellerman loved to make waves.” Most pages have more text than this.

About: Annette Kellerman lived in Australia in the late 19th and early 20th century. She learnt to swim when sports were unseemly for women, invented water ballet, and eventually became an international swimming star of sea, stage, pool and, as time went on, movies. In the process she designed her own swimming suits, challenged US law and became part of fashion history as well. She’s one of those once-household-names that’s been forgotten this many decades on. She’s great to read about. Her story is told simply, it’s easy to follow, and there are solid author’s notes at the back of the book that you can use to look up or go into more detail on some of the events in her story.

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“But swimming had made Annette’s legs strong. And in the water, she didn’t feel plain or clumsy or weak. She felt beautiful and graceful and fancy-free.” There are many obstacles for Annette to overcome. A mysterious non-permanent disability is hand-waved away in the book but discussed more in the author’s notes.

Good things:

  • Female athlete
  • Bravery, courage and persistence
  • Success story
  • Vividly and rhythmically illustrated with hints of Art Nouveau styling
  • Advocate for women’s health and dress reform
  • Shows cultural change
  • Great author’s notes
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The final page, showing changes in women’s swimwear design from Annette’s time onwards.
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