Thanks to Harry N. Abrams for sharing a copy of Maya and the Beast with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.
Maya and the Beast
Written by Maya Gabeira | Illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki
“Once upon a time, in a fishing village called Nazaré, there lived a Beast” begins this compelling fictionalized version of world-record-breaking surfer Maya Gabeira’s life. The Beast is not an animal or a dragon, but a wave that roars upward as tall as a seven-story building and larger than a blue whale. When the Beast crashed upon the shore, it rattle windows and vibrated through the ground.
In Nazaré there lived a shy young girl with asthma that often kept her indoors and made her feel “fragile and scared.” Despite her asthma, Maya relished the strength she felt when doing sports—dancing, gymnastics, and especially swimming. She had grown up hearing stories about the Beast and warnings to stay away from it and the other big waves that rolled ashore.
But one day, Maya decided to go see the waves for herself. Standing atop a cliff, she watched in awe. The Beast “was the most beautiful thing Maya had ever seen. The other thing she saw was boys surfing—”gliding across the waves, tiny creatures against the blue.” Maya instantly fell in love with the speed and power of surfing.
She ran home and told her dad, “‘I’ve discovered my dream—it’s surfing!'” The next morning Maya found a surfboard waiting for her. She took it down to the town beach, where the waves were smaller but boys were still surfing. She asked one boy if he would teach her to surf, but he only told her that ‘”surfing is too dangerous for girls.'”
The next day, once again watching the Beast from the clifftop, Maya found a conch shell. When she put it to her ear, she heard words of encouragement that spurred her on. She returned to the town beach with her surfboard the next day and every day afterward. She practiced swimming underwater, where she discovered that, because of her asthma she already familiar with the feeling of breathlessness she experienced under a wave.
She began practicing popups and balance on her board in the sand. “Each time she fell, she got up again.” When she felt ready, she took her board into the ocean and practiced on the small waves, ignoring the laughter of the boys. As she became more confident, she grew to love the sport even more. “She felt resilient. She felt powerful. She felt happy.” The boys could only look on in disbelief.
One day she returned to the cliff and found the conch shell. This time when she put it to her ear, she heard words of pride in her accomplishments and an affirmation of her bravery. As she listened to the waves, she knew she would become a champion surfer and “prove that a girl could ride the biggest wave in the world. And one day… she did.”
In her extensive Author’s Note, Maya Gabeira relates how she came to love surfing and her rise in the sport. She includes her successes and also her setbacks and shows readers that engaging in any endeavor takes persistence, self-confidence, and the freedom to find one’s true self.
Inspired by her own life experiences, legendary surfer Maya Gabeira, encourages children—girls in particular—to find their passion and embrace the dedication and hard work required to achieve their goals. Her story highlights independence, self-reliance, and self-confidence. The words relayed by the conch shell can be seen as that small interior voice of truth we all have and that, when listened to, can spur us to pursue our real aspirations.
Through Ramona Kaulitzki’s stunning illustrations, readers can almost hear the roar of the Beast and feel the salt spray on their skin. Beautiful blue and green waves trimmed in foamy white curl on the page form offshore, framing and dwarfing Maya and the boy surfers. Two-page spreads give readers an idea of the enormity of these waves and the strength and bravery required to ride them. Kaulitzki depicts Maya’s enthusiasm with her chosen sport, showing readers her determination to conquer it despite sometimes falling and having to practice amid the naysaying boys. As Maya’s confidence grows, her smiles and strength are evident, culminating in the awe-inspiring final spread of Maya riding the Beast.
A unique story about a contemporary role model, Maya and the Beast will inspire all children to listen to their own inner voice as they find their passion and reach for their goals. The book also encourages adults to support their children’s choices and provides an opportunity for discussions about what those are. Maya and the Beast would be an excellent addition to home bookshelves and is highly recommended for school and public libraries.
Ages 4 – 8
Harry N. Abrams, 2022 | ISBN 978-1419760006
You can learn more about Maya Gabeira, view pictures and heart-pounding videos of her surfing skills, and more on her website.
Discover more about Ramona Kaulitzki, her books, and her art on her website.
Maya and the Beast Book Birthday Activities
The Beast Video
Watch Maya Gabeira in her Guinness World Record winning ride.
Surfboard Coloring Page
Get out to the beach with this coloring page that lets you design your own surfboard too!
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