The Girl Who Swam to Atlantis, by Elle Thornton
Nearly everything important in twelve-year-old Gabriella's life that summer of 1957 can be traced to the river. On the North Carolina military base where she lives, she meets the African-American Marine Hawkins by the river's brown-green water. Hawkins, a servant in the kitchen of her father's quarters, becomes her swim coach and a person she can talk with--even about the tragedy of the youth Emmett Till. The fourteen-year-old was lynched two years earlier, his body thrown into Mississippi's Tallahatchie river. But this river, her river, isn't a place of death. Emmett's spirit is alive in its waters. It's a place of magic.
At the river Hawkins helps her find her strength and her place in the world. Emmett helps her find her heart.
Emmett had been murdered for whistling at a white woman. Could her friendship with Hawkins endanger the tough Marine' It doesn't seem possible. Until a sudden storm on the river changes Gabriella's life--forever.
Meet the Author
My background as the daughter of a career Marine and my professional experience as a newspaper reporter, technical writer, and instructor in freshman English helped prepare me to write The Girl Who Swam to Atlantis.
I only knew Emmett Till's name from the Bob Dylan song, "Ballad of Emmett Till," until one of my African-American students mentioned the name to me: Something in my student's eyes and voice told me I needed to find out about Emmett. I am very grateful to say that I did.
Since then I've learned that too many adults and young people of different racial backgrounds, even African-Americans, do not know the name or story of Emmett Till.
I've also learned that there are few works of fiction in the middle-grade/young adult category about military families or military history.
Ultimately, while my background prepared me to actually write the book, nothing prepared me for the emotional impact of Emmett Till's story of bravery. Emmett Till never would say what his racist murderers tried to force him to say: that he wasn't as good as them. During the writing, he's become part of me: as I see it, this is the true gift from having written The Girl Who Swam to Atlantis.