In this taut portrayal of the immigrant experience, 12-year-old Kasienka moves with Mama from Gdansk, Poland, to Coventry, England, to find Tata, her father.
The adjustment is difficult. At school, Kasienka is ostracized. At home, she questions why they are searching for a man who ran from them. When Kasienka complains, Mama questions her love. Kasienka feels powerful only when she swims at the pool—something Tata taught her to do. That is also where William, a schoolmate, first notices her. Narrating in image-rich free verse that packs an emotional punch, Kasienka describes what life is like for a new arrival while also exploring universal themes of abandonment, loyalty, bullying and first love. Concise lines and brief poems—two to three pages at most—mirror her tentative steps in an alien world, offering snapshots of her experiences and thoughts. Her story is broken into three parts, emphasizing the stages Kasienka goes through, with the last providing “starting blocks,” as it were. Sweetheart William encourages her to swim; through swimming, Kasienka reconnects with her father; she and Mama make peace; and the school bully is rendered powerless in the face of Kasienka’s hard-won happiness. It is fitting that some of the last poems are entitled “Metamorphosis” and “Forgiveness.” The Epilogue, “Butterfly,” offers good advice for living: “[P]ull, / Push, / Recover.”
Memorable. (Verse fiction. 10-14)