YUSRA SWIMS by Julie Abery


by ; illustrated by
Age Range: 6 - 10
Email this review


Yusra, a young Syrian woman, travels at the age of 17 with her older sister to escape the war in her country.

Having trained since childhood, Yusra dreams of swimming at the Olympics. The sisters, now refugees, pay smugglers and end up on a small inflatable loaded with people and headed to Greece. Shortly after the boat takes off from the Turkish shore, the engine fails. However, Yusra and her sister jump into the water and help guide it to safety despite the rough sea. They arrive on the shore tired and cold. Strangers stare at them with accusing looks, but there is also “sudden kindness” when a child gives Yusra shoes. They walk for miles on rough terrain, then take buses and trains until reaching safety in Germany. There, Yusra starts training to swim again, eventually achieving her dream. In clipped quatrains—no line exceeds four syllables—the story relates Yusra Mardini’s journey from Syria in 2015, culminating in her participation in the 2016 Olympics as part of a team of refugees. Abery’s choice of spare, rhythmic verse gives the narrative a gripping and dramatic feel while Deng’s illustrations convey the struggles of war and displacement. Yusra is portrayed throughout as a strong and resilient young woman, determined and full of courage. A note from the author provides additional information about Yusra’s journey, including her becoming a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency.

A true and inspiring story of a refugee hero. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-56846-329-2
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2020