Yusra Swims

by Julie Abery (Author) Sally Deng (Illustrator)

Yusra Swims
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
A biography in rhyme relates the story of Olympic swimmer and Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini.
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School Library Journal

Gr 1-4--Abery spotlights the life of Syrian swimmer and refugee Yusra Mardini in this understated picture book biography. Trained as a competitive swimmer, 15-year-old Mardini grew up in a suburb of Damascus, Syria. She represented her country in the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championship competition. By the summer of 2015, civil unrest was growing, and Mardini and her sister decided to leave the country. They traveled by plane and bus, and eventually boarded a dinghy bound for the Greek island of Lesbos. The boat's engine failed, and the dinghy almost sank. Mardini, her sister, and two other passengers jumped in the water and guided the boat to safety. She later settled in Germany and went on to compete as a member of the Refugee Olympic Team during the 2016 Rio Olympics. The narrative is told in spare, rhyming verse. Each verse is accompanied by Deng's evocative colored pencil illustrations, which provide more detail than the text about the athlete's life. Running feet and broken glass can be seen in the background of Mardini's swimming complex; a helicopter hovers in the sky over a leafy, seaside refugee camp. The lack of textual detail encourages the reader to look more closely at the illustrations and form an appreciation of the relationship between art and words in a picture book. Readers eager for additional facts about Mardini's experience will find a more in-depth profile at the end of the text. VERDICT A unique approach to biography, enriched by Deng's contemplative and masterful illustrations. Recommended for purchase in most collections.--Kristy Pasquariello, Westwood Public Library, MA

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Creative Editions
Publication date
February 20, 2020
BISAC categories
JNF053240 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Social Topics | Emigration & Immigration
JNF038080 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | Middle East
JNF007100 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Sports & Recreation
JNF054150 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Sports & Recreation | Water Sports
JNF054110 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Sports & Recreation | Olympics
Library of Congress categories
Women swimmers
Women Olympic athletes
Olympic athletes
Mardini, Yusra

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