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Aniana del Mar Jumps In

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Pura Belpré Author Honor Award
** Four starred reviews!**

A powerful and expertly told novel in verse about a twelve-year-old Dominican American swimmer who is diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis by an award-winning poet.


Aniana del Mar belongs in the water like a dolphin belongs to the sea. But she and Papi keep her swim practices and meets hidden from Mami, who has never recovered from losing someone she loves to the water years ago. That is, until the day Ani’s stiffness and swollen joints mean she can no longer get out of bed, and Ani is forced to reveal just how important swimming is to her. Mami forbids her from returning to the water but Ani and her doctor believe that swimming along with medication will help Ani manage her disease. What follows is the journey of a girl who must grieve who she once was in order to rise like the tide and become the young woman she is meant to be. Aniana Del Mar Jumps In is a poignant story about chronic illness and disability, the secrets between mothers and daughters, the harm we do to the ones we love the most—and all the triumphs, big and small, that keep us afloat.

"Beautiful in its honesty and vulnerability, this is a powerful story about dreams and bodily agency that sings from the heart.”—Natalia Sylvester, award-winning author of Breathe and Count Back From Ten
© Tasha Gorel
Jasminne Mendez is a Dominican American poet, essayist, translator, and award-winning author of several books for children and adults. Based in Houston, she is the co-founder and program director of the Latinx literary arts organization Tintero Projects and co-host of Inkwell, a poetry and writing podcast series. View titles by Jasminne Mendez
Prologue

When I Learned to Swim

Before my brother, Matti, is born

before I learn how to keep secrets,

before I learn what my name means
and how it ties me to the water,

Papi teaches me how to swim.

Mami is away in the Dominican Republic
visiting family and friends she hasn’t seen in years.

I am six and still afraid of everything.

Papi knows Mami won’t like it.
But he decides it’s time for me to learn.
The First Time

I tremble near the edge of a pool.

My knees KnOcK
                       kNoCk
                                KnOcK
against each other.

A warm August wind w h o o s h e s
through my tangled curls,

I almost let go of my Minnie
Mouse towel when––

Papi nudges me
a little closer to the edge.

I                  jUmP                  back
as if the pool is a sinkhole of blue flames.

I squeal 
a high-pitched trumpet tingling my tonsils:

No,
              no,
                  no!
I don’t want the water
              in my eyes
                                      in my nose
                                                              in my lungs.
Mami says that the water . . .

Sssh mi reina, no pasa nada.

Papi sits me on his lap, 
tells me a cuento para calmarme.

Papi: The first time I swam
in the green rivers of el campo,

the current slapped me around
until my arms began to flip

and my legs began to flap
and suddenly I was flying underwater.

Your body will know
how to handle the water

as long as you don’t resist it.
Jumping In

Papi’s big brown arms
wrap around my waist.

His warm breath tickles
my ear and his black beard
sweeps against my cheek.

Papi whispers: 
Concentrate––

Reach your arms out, then pull
them apart as if you are parting
the purple curtains in your room.

Kick your legs like a drummer’s hands
when they paddle their palms
on a Palo drum.

Imagine your body is a feather
and you’ll float. Let the water hold
you. Remember, yo estoy aquí.

He squeezes my hand.

1
      2    
            3!
                   We jump in.




The Island (& Me): May

My Island

We live on an                        island.
The island where we live
is an o u t s t r e t c h e d      arm      reaching
into the Gulf of Mexico.

Galveston:

Where the streets are lined
with papel picado houses
in peacock green and 
pomegranate pink.

Hundreds of shotgun houses
where the wind whistles 
in through the front door and shoots
directly down the hallways
out the back.

Hundreds of houses 
in sherbet colors that remind Mami 
of “back home.” 

But this is the only home
I’ve ever known.

On Sundays before church, 
I like to walk to the seawall,
alone,
and watch the sunrise explode
in the sky like cascarones
on Easter. 

Blue, pink, and orange colors
confetti the horizon and kiss the sea.

Sometimes, I don’t know
if the ocean is the sky
or the sky is the ocean. 

It opens
                  BIG
                              W I D E 
                                                 E  N  D  L  E  S  S.

The way I do
when I swim.

Sometimes, I think that if
I swim long enough 
I’ll reach that cascarón sky
and instead of swimming
I’ll begin to S O A R.


Wants Me Close

Some Sundays
after church, Mami,
Matti, and me 
go to the beach.

Sometimes I build
sandcastles with Matti.

Sometimes, if Papi
is with us and goes 
in the water with me, 
Mami lets me                  S W I M.

Mami doesn’t like it
that I swim underwater
so far away from her.

I try to tell her:

Papi taught me
how to hold my breath,
stroke my arms,
and kick my fins,
like a dolphin.
I’ll be fine.

Still––

shewantsmeclose.

She’s afraid la mar
will swallow me up
the way it swallowed 
her brother
her house and 
her village
during a storm long ago
when she was just a girl.

Mami calls the ocean
“la mar” instead of “el mar”
because she believes 
the ocean is a strong woman
who gives and takes life
when she wants.

The ocean will betray you
she says. 

I try to tell her: 

I am Ani
de las aguas
I swim
with the dolphins.
The water and I
protect each other.
She won’t take me
away from you.

Still––

shewantsmeclose. 


Birth Story

Mami says when I was born,
I almost drowned
in the ocean of her belly
and they had to C U T me      out.

I was not ready 
for the world, 
               would not latch,
                                       would not eat, 
                                                               would not stop crying.

So they slipped tubes
through my nose
and fed me food
that was not Mami’s milk.

Mami says this made her worry
we would not bond 
and I would not have enough
of what I needed to grow
big and strong. 

And sometimes I worry 
she was right.

Educator Guide for Aniana del Mar Jumps In

Classroom-based guides appropriate for schools and colleges provide pre-reading and classroom activities, discussion questions connected to the curriculum, further reading, and resources.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

Pura Belpré Author Honor Award
New York Public Library Best Book of the Year

Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year 
NCTE Notable Poetry Book and Verse Novel Selection
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Kirkus Best Book of the Year
ALSC 2024 Notable Children’s Books

USBBY 2023 Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities!

★ “Ani’s aching, determined verse narration weaves English and Spanish words into striking imagery as she navigates tumultuous emotions and her loving but stifling relationship with Mami. Mendez, also disabled and Dominican American, explores post-traumatic stress and its effects with both compassion and honesty, respecting Mami’s trauma without diminishing the pain her overprotectiveness causes Ani. Religious belief is similarly represented with nuance. . . . A painful yet hopeful exploration of family, trauma, faith, and healing.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
 
★ “Via myriad poetic forms and sensorial verse, Mendez viscerally details the emotional family tumult of grief, mistrust, and resentment alongside Ani’s heartfelt quest to reunite with water.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
 
★ “The nuanced depiction of disability, intergenerational conflict, and family trauma make this a must-have for all middle grade shelves.”—School Library Journal, starred review
 
★ “Mendez’s novel beautifully crafts a first-person narrative with concrete poetry, forming shapes of teardrops, sea creatures, and storms to capture the physical and emotional journey of Aniana’s desire to return to the water and navigate her newly diagnosed disability. Stanzas with English and Spanish dialogue, repetition, and spacing visually add to the tension and distance Aniana experiences with her family and friends.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

Aniana del Mar Jumps In is a story of love, loss, and growth that explores how our actions can unintentionally harm those who we love, how we learn to heal from that pain, and how we grieve not only those who we’ve lost but the people we once were, as well as embracing who we are becoming.”—Booklist

“Aniana del Mar Jumps in is about trusting our own bodies when they tell us what they can and cannot do, trusting our own hearts when they point the way, and trusting one another when we say who we are and what we need. Jasminne Mendez uses multiple poetic forms and deft lyricism to explore the knotty intaglios of family and community, guiding readers through multiple emotional storms to a rousing, heart-warming conclusion.”—David Bowles, award-winning author of They Call Me Güero

Reading this made me feel like I have been holding my breath without knowing it. This book made me exhale. Similarly, I know that so many young people will see themselves in this book, exhale and say FINALLY. Such an important book.”—Elisabet Velasquez, award-winning author of When We Make It

“I both cried and rooted for Aniana as she navigates the new realities of her body and journeys to protect the parts of her that, even in illness, are fully hers to claim. Beautiful in its honesty and vulnerability, this is a powerful story about dreams and bodily agency that sings from the heart.”—Natalia Sylvester, award-winning author of Breathe and Count Back From Ten

About

Pura Belpré Author Honor Award
** Four starred reviews!**

A powerful and expertly told novel in verse about a twelve-year-old Dominican American swimmer who is diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis by an award-winning poet.


Aniana del Mar belongs in the water like a dolphin belongs to the sea. But she and Papi keep her swim practices and meets hidden from Mami, who has never recovered from losing someone she loves to the water years ago. That is, until the day Ani’s stiffness and swollen joints mean she can no longer get out of bed, and Ani is forced to reveal just how important swimming is to her. Mami forbids her from returning to the water but Ani and her doctor believe that swimming along with medication will help Ani manage her disease. What follows is the journey of a girl who must grieve who she once was in order to rise like the tide and become the young woman she is meant to be. Aniana Del Mar Jumps In is a poignant story about chronic illness and disability, the secrets between mothers and daughters, the harm we do to the ones we love the most—and all the triumphs, big and small, that keep us afloat.

"Beautiful in its honesty and vulnerability, this is a powerful story about dreams and bodily agency that sings from the heart.”—Natalia Sylvester, award-winning author of Breathe and Count Back From Ten

Author

© Tasha Gorel
Jasminne Mendez is a Dominican American poet, essayist, translator, and award-winning author of several books for children and adults. Based in Houston, she is the co-founder and program director of the Latinx literary arts organization Tintero Projects and co-host of Inkwell, a poetry and writing podcast series. View titles by Jasminne Mendez

Excerpt

Prologue

When I Learned to Swim

Before my brother, Matti, is born

before I learn how to keep secrets,

before I learn what my name means
and how it ties me to the water,

Papi teaches me how to swim.

Mami is away in the Dominican Republic
visiting family and friends she hasn’t seen in years.

I am six and still afraid of everything.

Papi knows Mami won’t like it.
But he decides it’s time for me to learn.
The First Time

I tremble near the edge of a pool.

My knees KnOcK
                       kNoCk
                                KnOcK
against each other.

A warm August wind w h o o s h e s
through my tangled curls,

I almost let go of my Minnie
Mouse towel when––

Papi nudges me
a little closer to the edge.

I                  jUmP                  back
as if the pool is a sinkhole of blue flames.

I squeal 
a high-pitched trumpet tingling my tonsils:

No,
              no,
                  no!
I don’t want the water
              in my eyes
                                      in my nose
                                                              in my lungs.
Mami says that the water . . .

Sssh mi reina, no pasa nada.

Papi sits me on his lap, 
tells me a cuento para calmarme.

Papi: The first time I swam
in the green rivers of el campo,

the current slapped me around
until my arms began to flip

and my legs began to flap
and suddenly I was flying underwater.

Your body will know
how to handle the water

as long as you don’t resist it.
Jumping In

Papi’s big brown arms
wrap around my waist.

His warm breath tickles
my ear and his black beard
sweeps against my cheek.

Papi whispers: 
Concentrate––

Reach your arms out, then pull
them apart as if you are parting
the purple curtains in your room.

Kick your legs like a drummer’s hands
when they paddle their palms
on a Palo drum.

Imagine your body is a feather
and you’ll float. Let the water hold
you. Remember, yo estoy aquí.

He squeezes my hand.

1
      2    
            3!
                   We jump in.




The Island (& Me): May

My Island

We live on an                        island.
The island where we live
is an o u t s t r e t c h e d      arm      reaching
into the Gulf of Mexico.

Galveston:

Where the streets are lined
with papel picado houses
in peacock green and 
pomegranate pink.

Hundreds of shotgun houses
where the wind whistles 
in through the front door and shoots
directly down the hallways
out the back.

Hundreds of houses 
in sherbet colors that remind Mami 
of “back home.” 

But this is the only home
I’ve ever known.

On Sundays before church, 
I like to walk to the seawall,
alone,
and watch the sunrise explode
in the sky like cascarones
on Easter. 

Blue, pink, and orange colors
confetti the horizon and kiss the sea.

Sometimes, I don’t know
if the ocean is the sky
or the sky is the ocean. 

It opens
                  BIG
                              W I D E 
                                                 E  N  D  L  E  S  S.

The way I do
when I swim.

Sometimes, I think that if
I swim long enough 
I’ll reach that cascarón sky
and instead of swimming
I’ll begin to S O A R.


Wants Me Close

Some Sundays
after church, Mami,
Matti, and me 
go to the beach.

Sometimes I build
sandcastles with Matti.

Sometimes, if Papi
is with us and goes 
in the water with me, 
Mami lets me                  S W I M.

Mami doesn’t like it
that I swim underwater
so far away from her.

I try to tell her:

Papi taught me
how to hold my breath,
stroke my arms,
and kick my fins,
like a dolphin.
I’ll be fine.

Still––

shewantsmeclose.

She’s afraid la mar
will swallow me up
the way it swallowed 
her brother
her house and 
her village
during a storm long ago
when she was just a girl.

Mami calls the ocean
“la mar” instead of “el mar”
because she believes 
the ocean is a strong woman
who gives and takes life
when she wants.

The ocean will betray you
she says. 

I try to tell her: 

I am Ani
de las aguas
I swim
with the dolphins.
The water and I
protect each other.
She won’t take me
away from you.

Still––

shewantsmeclose. 


Birth Story

Mami says when I was born,
I almost drowned
in the ocean of her belly
and they had to C U T me      out.

I was not ready 
for the world, 
               would not latch,
                                       would not eat, 
                                                               would not stop crying.

So they slipped tubes
through my nose
and fed me food
that was not Mami’s milk.

Mami says this made her worry
we would not bond 
and I would not have enough
of what I needed to grow
big and strong. 

And sometimes I worry 
she was right.

Guides

Educator Guide for Aniana del Mar Jumps In

Classroom-based guides appropriate for schools and colleges provide pre-reading and classroom activities, discussion questions connected to the curriculum, further reading, and resources.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

Praise

Pura Belpré Author Honor Award
New York Public Library Best Book of the Year

Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year 
NCTE Notable Poetry Book and Verse Novel Selection
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Kirkus Best Book of the Year
ALSC 2024 Notable Children’s Books

USBBY 2023 Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities!

★ “Ani’s aching, determined verse narration weaves English and Spanish words into striking imagery as she navigates tumultuous emotions and her loving but stifling relationship with Mami. Mendez, also disabled and Dominican American, explores post-traumatic stress and its effects with both compassion and honesty, respecting Mami’s trauma without diminishing the pain her overprotectiveness causes Ani. Religious belief is similarly represented with nuance. . . . A painful yet hopeful exploration of family, trauma, faith, and healing.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
 
★ “Via myriad poetic forms and sensorial verse, Mendez viscerally details the emotional family tumult of grief, mistrust, and resentment alongside Ani’s heartfelt quest to reunite with water.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
 
★ “The nuanced depiction of disability, intergenerational conflict, and family trauma make this a must-have for all middle grade shelves.”—School Library Journal, starred review
 
★ “Mendez’s novel beautifully crafts a first-person narrative with concrete poetry, forming shapes of teardrops, sea creatures, and storms to capture the physical and emotional journey of Aniana’s desire to return to the water and navigate her newly diagnosed disability. Stanzas with English and Spanish dialogue, repetition, and spacing visually add to the tension and distance Aniana experiences with her family and friends.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

Aniana del Mar Jumps In is a story of love, loss, and growth that explores how our actions can unintentionally harm those who we love, how we learn to heal from that pain, and how we grieve not only those who we’ve lost but the people we once were, as well as embracing who we are becoming.”—Booklist

“Aniana del Mar Jumps in is about trusting our own bodies when they tell us what they can and cannot do, trusting our own hearts when they point the way, and trusting one another when we say who we are and what we need. Jasminne Mendez uses multiple poetic forms and deft lyricism to explore the knotty intaglios of family and community, guiding readers through multiple emotional storms to a rousing, heart-warming conclusion.”—David Bowles, award-winning author of They Call Me Güero

Reading this made me feel like I have been holding my breath without knowing it. This book made me exhale. Similarly, I know that so many young people will see themselves in this book, exhale and say FINALLY. Such an important book.”—Elisabet Velasquez, award-winning author of When We Make It

“I both cried and rooted for Aniana as she navigates the new realities of her body and journeys to protect the parts of her that, even in illness, are fully hers to claim. Beautiful in its honesty and vulnerability, this is a powerful story about dreams and bodily agency that sings from the heart.”—Natalia Sylvester, award-winning author of Breathe and Count Back From Ten

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