Kasienka and her mother arrive in England prepared to search for her father who left them behind in Poland. They just received a check from him giving them an idea of where he is living, but Kasienka isn't sure he wants to be found. When she tries to convince her mother of this, her mother ignores her. As the search continues, Kasienka struggles to fit in at her school where she has been placed a year behind where she should be, just because her English isn't good enough. In addition to this, a group of girls starts bullying her for no reason she understands. But slowly Kasienka's confidence in herself grows as she finally makes a friend and pursues her passion for swimming. When a boy shows interest in her, she is excited about getting her first kiss but confused about how it is all supposed to work. Things come to a head however when Kasienka's father is found and it's clear that he wants nothing further to do with her mother.
Strengths: The characters are great including Kasienka, her mother, their neighbor Kanoro, and Will especially shine through. The plot is interesting revolving as it does around a young girl's love of swimming and how it helps her deal with the challenges in her life, including a mother who refuses to listen and accept what those around her tell her. Kasienka's struggles at school are unfortunately all to common, especially for immigrant children. The free verse is beautifully written.
Weaknesses: I'm not sure how many middle grade readers want to read free verse. The format means that a lot of details are left out, but this allows the reader to focus on Kasienka's feelings, which is not entirely a bad thing. I also have issues with 12 and 13-year-old's making out, especially French kissing such as Kasienka and Will engage in. Do we really want to encourage kids this age to engage in that kind of behavior without fully understanding the consequences (which are in no way explored in this book)?