Splash!: Ethelda Bleibtrey Makes Waves of Change

Sleeping Bear. Jul. 2022. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534111431.
Gr 2-4–This inspirational picture book biography shares the life journey of the Olympic swimming gold medalist and polio survivor who challenged social norms and fought for equality for women. In 1917, Ethelda Bleibtrey was a teenage girl with polio growing up in New York City, feeling exhaustive pain and weakness in her arms and legs. Doctor-recommended swimming gave her an exhilarating sense of freedom that she had never known. As she grew older, swimming became the means through which Bleibtrey pursued issues surround women’s equality. She thought it was unfair that women had to swim with knee socks while men swam with bare legs, so she followed suit and was arrested for it. As the news spread, women began to remove their own socks, and eventually the police gave up trying to keep track of infractions of the antiquated rule. Bleibtrey then built a career in competitive swimming and blew through previous records. Baddeley’s artwork fuels the narrative and gives structure to the book, depicting a woman with fierce determination and pluck; the art impressively interprets water as expressive, using its dynamism and reflective qualities almost as another character to expand what readers know about Bleibtrey herself.
VERDICT With illustrations and text fully grounded in research, including welcome historical details and photographs that appear in the back matter, this book is heartily recommended for elementary nonfiction collections.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing