When the Water Closes over My Head

When the Water Closes over My Head

by Donna Jo Napoli, Nancy Poydar

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When his family goes on vacation to visit his grandparents in Iowa, nine-year-old Mikey is continually faced with his fear of drowning. See more details below

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When his family goes on vacation to visit his grandparents in Iowa, nine-year-old Mikey is continually faced with his fear of drowning.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Its rather frightening, downbeat title aside, this is a decidedly uplifting story. The day before his family leaves to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Iowa, nine-year-old Mikey packs his clothes, taking special care to leave his bathing suit behind. Terrified of swimming, he is determined to avoid the water. But he has no such luck. His parents have signed him up for lessons, and it seems that swimming is on the agenda at every turn (``Does everyone in the world have to have a pool or a watering hole or some other stupid place to drown?''). Punctuating her book with much lighthearted banter and realistic sibling bickering, Napoli ( The Magic Circle ) deftly delivers a worthwhile message to youngsters having trouble overcoming a fear and making a leap--into the water or elsewhere. Heeding the advice of his mother and grandmother, Mikey learns to think positively and act confidently (and to swim). Napoli's snappy dialogue and compact sentences--and Poydar's animated drawings--make this a good selection for reluctant readers. Ages 7-10. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Mikey Nelson, nine, is afraid of the water. He and his family are spending their vacation in Iowa at his grandparents', and he knows that they are all expecting him to overcome this fear and learn to swim. He finally does so when he saves a little girl from drowning. Although young readers might relate to the boy's apprehension, it seems to take forever for him to resolve his problem. The plot is constantly diverted by incidents that may or may not give Mikey new insights into his dilemma. He is surrounded by didactic adults and bickering siblings. Even the family dog's main function seems to be to annoy everyone. Mikey worries about death and unknown dangers and expresses his anxiety and frustration with name calling and occasional swearing. He keeps trying to arm himself-first with a superdeluxe slingshot, then with a knife, and finally with a toy gun about which he says, "`With a gun in my hands I feel ready.'" Although there are lighter moments in the story and the child's self-esteem eventually takes a turn for the better, this contemporary story is too convoluted and wordy to appeal to most youngsters.- Carol Schene, Taunton Public Schools, MA
Hazel Rochman
Mikey is about to start fourth grade, and he can't swim. He's good at sports, but he doesn't like water. He's scared he'll drown. His older sister's teasing doesn't help. His parents try to give him support, but his fear has become such a big thing--especially now that summer has come and swimming lessons loom--that at times it seems as if sadness and disappointment are everywhere. Of course, he does finally learn to swim, and it's a great triumph; but this is far from a predictable problem novel. Mikey is part of a warm, messy family, with parents who are loving (and sometimes grumpy) and siblings who can be a pain in the neck. Gender roles also subvert formula: Mikey's older sister is jealous that he cooks better than she does. His little brother Calvin likes to dress up in necklaces and lipstick; at first Grandma is appalled, but Mikey defends Calvin, and Grandma accepts the fact that "attitudes have changed." The story is told in a series of tightly structured, cinematic episodes, with dialogue that captures the daily tangle of close relationships as people bicker about breakfast cereal and also confront elemental issues of grief and rivalry and love. Kids will want more stories about this family.

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Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.67(d)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

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