Stephanie reminds me that there are more children's books about animals as main characters than there are with children of color. We're trying to change that.
In her debut picture book, Brave in the Water, Diante is our BIPOC protagonist overcoming his own fear by helping grandma confront hers. As a retired law professor, and my former law professor in a course titled 'Social Justice and the Law,' she instills the value that children are more than capable of understanding diversity and upholding inclusivity. She's very much inspired me to be a better parent.
Last year my daughter (Annaliese) and I visited my alma mater (UC Davis) and we stayed at a hotel on campus. My six-year-old had the entire pool to herself, but her excitement was quickly overshadowed by her fear of the water. Getting in was easy enough. But physiologically, I could tell that as the cold water was crawling up her skin, from her toes, to her ankles, to her knees; the sensation was triggering her.
I at first disregarded her illogical fear. "You got this! You can do it!" But after 15 minutes of her submerging a mere few inches of her body it was apparent that her getting into the pool was more than just overcoming a fear of water.
Annaliese recalled Stephanie's story. We've read it together at least twice within the past month. "Breathe in ... Breathe out ...," she whispered to herself. "What are you doing?" I asked. "I'm being brave in the water," she reassured me.
I was so proud of Annaliese in that moment. I'm still amazed at how she can pull from her own memory bank and guide herself to a resolution. And I was so proud of Stephanie, for having the courage to trust herself and write this book.
Stephanie didn't learn to swim until she was 26 (I still can't swim and I'm ... long past 26). She didn't want her children to grow up afraid like her, so she took them to swim lessons at an early age. Both children became competitive swimmers. One founded and coached an award-winning swim program. One swam for Team USA in the 2008 Olympics (see Dr. Benjamin Wildman-Tobriner).
Brave in the Water is illustrated by Jenni Feidler-Aguilar.
Brave in the Water is also available in Spanish as Valiente en el Agua by Cecilia Populus-Eudave.
Follow Stephanie on Twitter @swildmansf.
Follow Jenni on Instagram @artwithmrsf.
You can buy your own copy of Brave in the Water at our local bookstore and online at Green Apple Books.