Trudy’s Big Swim: How Gertrude Ederle Swam the English Channel and Took the World by Storm by Sue Macy, illustrated by Matt Collins

Published by Holiday House

Summary:  When Gertrude “Trudy” Ederle emerged from the water on August 6, 1926, she became both the first woman to swim the English Channel and the fastest person, shaving almost two hours off the previous record.  Admittedly, she was a superstar swimmer, having won three Olympic medals and set 29 records in events ranging from 50 yards to half a mile.  But she was also a product of her time, riding the wave of women’s increased participation in sports and freedom that allowed her to wear a two-piece bathing suit very different from the head-to-toe coverage women swimmers had to put up with just a generation earlier.  Trudy’s swim made her a celebrity, and the final illustration shows her resting on her hotel bed, surrounded by the four ham sandwiches she ate after her swim, with newspapers carrying her story pressed against the windows.  An afterword gives more details about the swim and Trudy’s life afterward (she completely lost her hearing by age 22, taught swimming to deaf children for many years, and lived to the age of 98), and there are plenty of additional resources listed.  40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  As someone who has read America’s Champion Swimmer by David S. Adler to many classes, I thought there was little need for another picture book biography of Gertrude Ederle.  But veteran sportswriter Sue Macy has brought the story to life magnificently, placing it in the historical context of American women, propelled by getting the right to vote, enjoying greater freedoms and opportunities.  The illustrations have a you-are-there boldness that add a lot to the text.

Cons:  Endpapers giving a timeline of 1920’s sports history will be covered by the taped-down dust jacket of library books.

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