‘Splash,’ by Charli Howard, illustrations by Lucy Davey.

Charli is a model and body activist so is well-placed to write a book for middle grade readers which is aimed at encouraging a healthy body image.  In a time where children are constantly bombarded with unrealistic photos of what a body ‘should’ look like, it’s even more important that they are reassured that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that all are perfectly acceptable.

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Molly is like any other Year 6 girl, she loves hanging out with her best friend, the trendily-dressed and self-assured Chloe, but can’t help but feel immature and babyish standing next to her. She also can’t help but wonder if Chloe’s actually that nice a person; she’s constantly mean to the other members of their friendship group and picks on people who she doesn’t deem ‘worthy.’

To make matters worse, Molly is a talented swimmer and wants to join the local swimming club but Chloe thinks it’s lame. Her snide comments about Molly’s swimmer’s body and appetite are filling Molly with self-doubt.  Maybe she is just fat. Tom Beckett and his gang certainly think so.

When her absent mother suddenly returns, things seem to be looking up for Molly.  Surely all she needs to do now is win her races at the swimming competition and everything will be perfect….

As I mentioned earlier, any book which emphasises body diversity and encourages self-confidence should be applauded. I thought the relationships between Molly and her friends were a wholly accurate portrayal of friendships in the often turbulent and hormone-filled final year at primary school.  That nagging self-doubt, the desire to prove yourself, to fit in, to not disappoint the grown-ups in your life, to be popular. It’s a confusing time.

The issue of two absent parents and being  cared for by your grandparents was also sensitively handled. It’s good to see alternate family set-ups represented in children’s books.

Obviously, it’s been a long time since I myself was in Year 6 so after reading this myself, I lent it to a ‘target audience’ reviewer to get their take on it. Here’s what Ella (aged 11) had to say:

“I found this book very inspirational and hard to put down. I could easily relate to the main character’s feelings. I would recommend it to girls who enjoy sports and need a holiday read. Also, I enjoyed it so much that I snuck it into my suitcase to my school residential!”

Well, you don’t get much better than that!

Library Girl.

*Many thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me this title to review*

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