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The Story Behind the Story of Brave in the Water

From Stephanie Wildman

Thank you for inviting me to talk about Brave in the Water on your blog, Lynne. Do you know anyone who is afraid to put their face in the water? In this book the reader meets Diante, who runs away from the pool, even though he wants to play with the other children in the water. It looks like they are having fun.

I was that child, afraid. I learned that fear from my own parents, who could not swim. They would read me news reports about children drowning. Well, of course the best way not to drown is to know how to swim. But they were afraid and, though misguided, thought that teaching me to stay away from water was the best way to keep me safe.

I didn’t learn to swim until I was twenty-six years old. That summer, I was working for the United Farm Workers legal staff in Merced, California, where the temperature was so high that the legal staff went to the pool every day to cool off after work. I went along and it was so hot that even I got in the water and stood in the shallow end, probably showing my fear.

A kindly lifeguard started talking to me, wondering why I just stood there. By that age I was able to say out loud that I was afraid and that I’d never been able to learn how to swim, something I couldn’t confess when I was young.

The lifeguard was amazed that anyone had my attitude because swimming and pools were her life. After we talked, she worked with me every day, and by the end of the summer I could swim one 25-yard lap across the pool, without putting my foot down to touch the bottom.

When my summer stint was over and I returned to the city, I started swimming regularly at the Jewish Community Center. I didn’t want to lose my new-found ability, and, sure enough, I was able to increase the number of laps I could swim.

I didn’t want my own children to grow up afraid of the water, so I took them for swim lessons at an early age. They both became competitive swimmers growing up and continuing to swim in high school and college. One founded and coached an award-winning swim program for vulnerable youth at the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco. One swam for Team USA in the 2008 Olympics, winning a gold medal. So getting them in the water was one thing I did right as a parent, not passing on my own fear. I hope this book reaches children who might be afraid like I was and shows them that they can have fun in the water.

Here is what Bonnie Tsui, New York Times best-selling author of Why We Swim and Sarah and the Big Wave, said about Brave in the Water in her back cover blurb:

“Being brave is something we work on all our lives. Stephanie Wildman shows us how to help each other through -- one breath at a time -- to reach the essential joy of the water.”

Please note that a Spanish-language version of this book is also available--

Valiente en el Agua -- translated by Cecilia Populus-Eudave.

If you have read this far, I would be remiss not to mention my debut group I have been lucky to meet this group of Kidlit debut authors, all with books I want to buy and read. Remember you can always support children’s books by requesting your local library order them or by buying one for a Little Free Library. This group will give you some great ideas.

See you at the pool. Here are some water safety tips:


Stephanie is willing to send a copy of this book to one lucky winner. To be in the drawing, please share this post and note in the comments where it was shared. Stephanie will choose a winner on July 26th, 2021. Good luck!

Stephanie M. Wildman served as John A. and Elizabeth H. Sutro Chair at Santa Clara Law and directed the school’s Center for Social Justice and Public Service before becoming Professor Emerita. Her books include: Brave in the Water (2021); Privilege Revealed: How Invisible Preference Undermines America 2d (2021) (with contributions by Armstrong, Davis, & Grillo); Race and Races: Cases and Resources for a Diverse America 3d (with Delgado, Harris, Perea, & Stefancic) (2015); Social Justice: Professionals Communities and Law (with Mahoney & Calmore) (2013); Women and the Law Stories (with Schneider) (2011). She is a member of the Writers Grotto. She is a grandmother, mother, spouse, friend, good listener, and she is able to sit “criss-cross apple sauce” thanks to her yoga practice.

Visit my Website:

Social Media Tags (for Stephanie Wildman (me)):

Twitter: @SWildmanSF

Instagram: @stephanie_wildmansf

Social Media Tags for Jenni Feidler- Aguilar (illustrator)


Twitter: @jennifeidlera

Instagram: @artwithmrsf


Social Media Tags for NewBooksForKids (my debut group)


Twitter: @NewBooksForKid1

Instagram: @newbooksforkids


Jacket flap copy: Are you afraid to put your face in the water? So is Diante. He would like to play in the pool with other children. He’s not afraid to hang upside down, though, and he’s surprised to learn his grandma is. Can Diante help Grandma and become brave in the water?

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