Monday, May 11, 2009

Swimming with Sharks by Betty Hicks

After the first two Gym Shorts books featured Henry and Goose, Rita is now the main character in Swimming with Sharks. Four of the five friends – Rita, Henry, Jazz, and Rocky – are on the swim team. (Goose is still busy becoming the greatest soccer goalie ever.) When Rita reaches the end of the pool, Miss York, the swim coach, checks her watch and announces that Rita has earned a place on the Dolphins team. Yes! Dolphins are very cool fish. Sleek, smart, friendly, and fast. Perfect for Rita.

But when Rocky, Henry, and Jazz all become Sharks and Rita realizes that their meets are on different days, her opinion changes. Dolphins are stupid.

Rita knows it’s her inability to do a flip turn that keeps her off the Sharks. Flip turns are so much faster…for those that can do them without getting water up their nose. Rita, unfortunately, is not one of them. When Jazz offers her a simple solution, a swimmer’s nose plug, Rita decides that quitting the team is easier. “I’m not a wimp. I’m just quitting,” Rita explains to her Shark friends. “When something isn’t you, it’s okay to quit.”

After a frustrating afternoon at home, wallowing in her quitting-ness, things are getting no better. When her younger sister comes home from a friend’s house riding her bike without training wheels, Rita realizes that help from a friend is just what she needs.

Jazz works with Rita on her flip turns until the pool transforms their fingertips to raisins. Her practice makes her much faster, but is this new-found ability enough to make her a Shark? Or could an ability she’s had all along be the one that gives her teeth?

The third Gym Shorts book again features friends helping friends, but the end of Swimming with Sharks is a bit different. Yes, Rita improves. Yes, her friends help her. But it turns out to be something Rita does all on her own that brings about her biggest chance for success.


  1. Thanks for recommending these Gym Shorts books--I'm always looking for something besides Matt Christopher for our school's younger sports fans to read! (The pig book also looks like fun!)

  2. You're welcome! I just read the fourth one - Scaredy-Cat Catcher - and it's on the to be reviewed list. (A pile that is ever growing ...something to do with the end of a school year and the full-time teaching gig...) It was a great book for me, having been on the receiving end of more than enough collisions at home.

    It's also funny you commented on these books when you did. I had just sat down to post on Help Readers Too about this exact topic and lament my lack of good sports books - a fact two students recently pointed out to me.


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