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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Leo Learns to Swim by Caren Cantrell is about a baby sea turtle who discovers, upon hatching, that he has one flipper shorter than the others. Unable to swim, Leo is too scared to follow his siblings and cousins into the ocean, but he knows the sand holds many dangers. With a series of inventive ideas, Leo tries to teach himself how to swim, but it's not until he meets a starfish that he discovers the inspiration he needs to be brave.
Leo Learns to Swim is a cute, charming, and sweet story that a lot of kids will be able to connect with. In addition, Gail Maguire creates lovely illustrations with soft colors, and a fun, expressive style that shows the determination and anxiety that Leo experiences. The story is aimed at very young readers, but it's endearing for all ages, featuring this little turtle that just wants to be able to swim. His inventions are quirky and humorous, but also heartwarming. I felt so much for this little turtle when he attaches a piece of driftwood to his flipper, and then doesn't give up whenever that plops off; instead he tries again and again. The lesson here is not giving up and caring about each other. The starfish was a delightful touch, giving Leo someone that he can relate to. The language is fun with words such as “plops,” “whoosh,” and “topsy-turvy.” Caren Cantrell creates a lovable character in Leo. He's absolutely adorable, brave, inventive, sympathetic, and caring. A must-read for every kid's book collection!