Reading/Interest Level: Preschool
Author: Liz Starin
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers
Ursula and Ricardo are practicing for a big water ballet championship. But when the pool decides not to allow bears in, Ricardo finds a new partner. Ursula goes to the neighborhood pond to swim and meets some other bears and their water ballet partners. They all practice together, and on the day of the championship they sneak into the pool in disguise. Then, after all the other teams have gone, they take off their costumes and perform their routine. They bow and then leave. Afterwards, the pool decides that they shouldn't exclude bears and the team starts to prepare for the next championship.
The story is not told in a particularly engaging way, but does invite the opportunity to talk about racism and tolerance. The author did a good job discussing topics involved with racism and prejudice without being political or offensive to any groups. Current studies show that these lessons are best absorbed by kids when adults talk about them explicitly. Although Splashdance does not explicitly talk about these issues, it is a great stepping stone for this type of discussion. (For more detailed information, check out John Medina's book Brain Rules for Baby.)