Posted in picture books

Annette Feels Free breaks barriers and dances past challenges

Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid, by Katie Mazeika, (Sept. 2022, Beach Lane Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781665903431

Ages 4-8

Born in 1887, Australian youngster Annette Kellerman loved the freedom that she felt while dancing, but was sidelined by a childhood disease that attacked her legs. As part of her physical therapy, her father brought her to Lavender Bay, where the freedom of the ocean and the absence of her braces gave her the freedom she missed. She spent more time in the ocean, strengthening her legs, and became a water artist: she danced, she competed, and she attempted to swim the English Channel. Katie Mazeika’s picture book biography on Annette Kellerman looks at her life in the water, where she was feted as a “Diving Venus” and includes her struggle against Victorian social mores that kept her in bloomers and skirts, impeding her swimming career, until she designed – and fought to wear – a more comfortable, practical swimsuit, which influenced women’s swimwear fashion.

Mazeika covers challenges that today’s readers can easily identify and understand: overcoming physical disability, the drive to compete, and inequality. She navigates Kellerman’s life with informative, age-appropriate text; her artwork brings the wonder and excitement. Back matter includes an author’s note on Annette Kellerman’s life, photographs, and a note on overcoming physical challenges. A very good addition to picture book biography collections.

Download a free curriculum guide for Annette Feels Free at author Katie Mazeika’s webpage. Learn more about Annette Kellerman at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia and the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

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


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


I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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