Brave in the Water // Valiente en el Agua

author: Stephanie Wildman 

illustrator: Jenni Feidler-Aguilar Spanish translator: Cecilia Populus-Eudave 

Lawley Publishing, 2021

grades 2-up

Young Diante desperately wants to play in the pool with the other children, but he’s afraid to put his face in the water. “I wish I could play like them,” he sighs. “They glide like fish. They don’t seem to mind water on their face.” 

[Note: There are three children in the pool, and one on the deck. None of them is swimming and there’s no water on anyone’s face. And, except for flying fish that propel themselves out of the water, fish don’t glide. They swim.]

Meanwhile, Grandma, who practices yoga, confides in her grandson that she is afraid to adopt the “peacock” pose, for which she’d have to be upside down. Grandma teaches Diante the basics of Pranayama, which she refers to as “special breathing,” and the two practice together. On his first solo try, Diante performs a perfect “peacock pose.”

[Note: “Peacock pose” (Pincha Mayurasana) is an advanced hand-balancing yoga pose—unusual and difficult, requiring strength, balance, and consistent practice and dedication that might take several years to perfect.] 

But when Diante holds his Grandma’s legs up for the “peacock pose,” she’s unable to do it, because she’s afraid, you know, of being upside down because she doesn’t want to fall over. “That’s okay,” the child mansplains to his silver-haired Grandma. “You tried.”

Now, having mastered the peacock pose (that, remember, could take years but took him only one try), young Diante is ready for the ultimate challenge: putting his face in the water. To accomplish this feat, he “remembers” Pranayama (the breathing technique that Grandma just taught him). Still, it takes him five pages to put his face in the water—of what appears to be a fairly shallow pool. 


“I did it, Grandma!” he laughed. “That wasn’t so hard. Now I know how a fish feels!”

A fish who overcomes its fear of water?

Feidler-Aguilar’s bright acrylic artwork complements the story. Except for the gorgeous cover, Diante, Grandma and the other characters are inconsistently and clumsily drawn, with out-of-proportion features, including facial and physical details. (On the cover, Diante appears to be about five years of age, and the interior pages portray him as veering between eight and twelve.) And an annoying peacock—a symbolic representation of the “peacock pose”—appears as a design element on almost every page.

Although Cecilia Populus-Eudave’s decent Spanish translation flows well, it contains the same logical flaws that undermines the English version. 

On every level, Brave in the Water // Valiente en el Agua is logically weak and likely to be confusing to children. It’s not recommended.

—Beverly Slapin

(published 4/16/2021)

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