Swimming Toward a Dream: Yusra Mardini’s Incredible Journey from Refugee to Olympic Swimmer

Page Street. Sept. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781645679837.
PreS-Gr 3–A short picture book biography of Yusra Mardini, a present-day Olympic swimmer and Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency. Mardini learns to swim as a toddler and dreams of entering the Olympics. When war comes to her city of Damascus, Syria, she has to set out on a perilous boat trip from Turkey to Greece. When the boat’s motor stops, Mardini has to swim with the boat, but will she and the others be able to make it to shore? And even if they do, what will become of her Olympic dreams? Although for the second half of the book, the Olympic swimmer is 17, young audiences will enjoy the easy-to-follow story and colorful illustrations. Athletes and refugees are portrayed with a variety of skin tones, clothing, and hair textures. The text has a repetitive, poetic quality that makes it ideal for reading aloud. Although it discusses some traumatic experiences, the book emphasizes resilience and hope and provides examples for handling difficult situations, such as practicing even when things are hard and taking “one breath at a time” when stressed.
VERDICT Add this biography to the shelves and include in themed read-alouds.

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