Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Annette Feels Free - a review 9.21.22

A woman who championed women's rights, who had a disability and said "I can do this anyway", and was a swimmer?  Annette Kellerman is definitely a woman I wanted to know more about!

Annette Feels Free:
The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class
Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid
by Katie Mazeika
published by Beach Lane Books

Annette was a fierce and joyful young girl, but after an illness, she suffered muscle loss in her legs and needed to wear braces for support.  Feeling constricted left Annette feeling quiet and sad and she wasn't the happy girl from before.  It was her father's idea to bring her into the water and see what she can do.  It was there that her freedom to move returned.  Annette could dance, kick, and move about in the water and it brought joy back into her life.  As she continued to grow, she found new ways to show her artistry in the water by putting on water dance shows, and ways to show her athleticism by swimming - and winning - in swim races across her homeland of Australia.  But there was one thing holding her back - what she had to wear in the water.  Annette was swimming during a time when women not only had to be covered in their attire, but it was also appropriate for their swim attire to be loose and flowy.  Hard to win when your material is causing a lot of drag!  Annette solved her own problem by creating her own swim attire, more similar to what a man would wear, but that was not ok with law enforcement!  Annette pleaded her case in court, and won!  Not only a pioneer for a women's right to wear appropriate swimwear, but also a pioneer of sport.  From competitive swimming to the sport now known as artistic swimming, Annette Kellerman lead the way!

Too often I hear people saying how "inspiring" people with disabilities are.  I've heard from many disabled athletes, including my own, who hate being described as that.  From what I understand, it makes them feel that their accomplishments are only looked at as inspiring because of their disability.  I think creator Katie Mazeika has done a wonderful job showcasing Annette's amazing accomplishments first, with a smaller note of how they came about.

I really love how Annette was described in the backmatter as, "a woman who pushed boundaries and advanced women's rights.  And we can all thank Annette for the freedom of wearing what we feel best in at the beach."  In a time when we question the rules, who makes them, who benefits from them, here is a great story of the person who helped women to the place we are now.

More accolades for Annette Feels Free:

A Junior Library  Guild Selection

Annette’s legacy in competitive, artistic, and recreational swimming is undeniable, and Mazeika’s text deftly balances her subject’s varied career. . . . Swim-pressive!”—Kirkus Reviews

“An enthralling introduction to a remarkable woman.”Booklist

About creator Katie Mazeika:

Katherine Mazeika is an author and illustrator 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. To learn more, and download a free curriculum guide, visit her website at

Twitter: @kdmaz

Instagram: @kdmazart

Facebook: Katie Mazeika Illustration

Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for the review copy.

1 comment:

  1. It's so wonderful that you were able to find this book—I imagine it resonates a lot, and it seems like such a well-written and impactful story as well! It's so absurd that Kellerman had to fight *law enforcement* for the ability to wear what she wanted as a swimmer—you'd think law enforcement had bigger problems! Also, I really appreciate your point about the word "inspiring"—it also seems like that word really puts the focus on the person using it, and how the other person fits into *their* story, rather than that person's own inherent value and achievements. Thanks so much for the wonderful post, Michele!