Saturday, July 25, 2015

Everybody into the pool! Two Picture Books about Swimming in Swimming Pools

 When we were kids and there was no parent available to take us to the beach, my older sister would take me and my best friend to Sunset Park Pool in Brooklyn.  It was an enormous and crowded pool, but I loved everything about it. Sadly, an allergy to chlorine ended my pool swimming days in my teens and, later, I always had to rely on friends to take my Kiddo to the pool.

This summer has brought us two wonderful picture books about swimming in a community pool, providing me with some vicarious pleasure of my early swimming days.

Pool by JiHyeon Lee
Chronicle Books, 2015, 56 pages

Pool is a wordless picture book that begins with a shy young boy in bathing suit, bathing cap and goggles making his way to the edge of a pool and ready to slide into the cool water.  Before that happens, though, a swarm of people rush past him and into the water with a variety of pool toys and suddenly the empty pool is now very crowded.

The boy manages to slide into the water, anyway and dives under the bodies.  As he swims around underwater, he meets a shy young girl similarly clad in bathing suit, cap and goggles.  The two swimmers begin to explore and play,  swimming among all kinds of imaginative schools of fish and other sea creatures.  They even play hide and seek among the underwater dwellings of polka dot eel-like sea animals, and diving even deeper into the water, their wordless, magical journey takes them to an enormous white whale.

The two finally surface just as everyone is leaving the pool.  As they remove their bathing caps and goggles, it is clear that these two kindred souls will be friends for life after their wonderfully delightful adventure.  But, wait, turn to the last page - is that another kindred soul?

Pool is JiHyeon Lee's debut picture book.  Originally published in Korea, it is a wordless story that has much to teach the reader about friendship and looking beyond the surface.  And yes, friendship can form without even saying a word.  The wordlessness also provides a nice compliment to the silence of being underwater (and a nice contrast to the noise you know so many people on the surface are making).

The illustrations are done in colored pencils and oil pastels, skillfully used to convey exactly what Lee wants the reader to know.  The first few pages are illustrated in shades of dull grey, except for the light blue of the pool water.  Once the two kids are underwater and begin their imaginative play, the images are done in bright lively colors.

Pool is a quiet, gentle story kids will surely want to read and talk about over and over.

This book is recommended for readers age 4+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Chronicle Books

Swimming, Swimming by Gary Clement
Groundwood Books, 2015, 48 pages

In this almost wordless picture book, the reader gets to spend a hot summer day at a community pool with a boy and his friends.  The day begins in the boy's bedroom as he wakes up, packs his bag for a day of swimming, and goes out to meet his friends - two other boys and a girl.  The four head off to the pool, practicing their strokes as they walk along.  At the pool, they change, shower, and jump into the water.

Suddenly, the four friends begin singing that old childhood favorite "Swimming, swimming, in the swimming pool" as they swim around.  Each line of the song is depicted on it's own double page spread as the kids act out the words.

At the end of the song, which is also the end of the day, the kids change in the locker room, buy some ice cream and walk home.  The main character eats his dinner, feeds his fish and goes to bed, under a poster of different swimming strokes, resting what I'm sure he is hoping for - another hot, sunny day at the pool.

Swimming, Swimming really brought home some happy pool days, not just mine, but my Kiddos, too.  Clements has depicted exactly what it is like to swim in a community pool with uncanny accuracy.  And these are kids who are serious about swimming - as indicated by the poster.

You would think a-day-in-the-life-of picture book wouldn't be very interesting, yet Swimming, Swimming proves that wrong.  In its everydayness, there is so much for young readers the see and talk about.  The main character is a little older than most picture book kids, probably around 11 or 12, but he has a message for young kids that swimming is fun, an activity that you can share with your friends and anyone can do it.

The illustrations, in pen, ink and watercolor, are done in a bright colorful palette dominated by shades of blue from aqua to blue to bright blue to light blue, all the different shades of blue depending on the sun's reflection.  All the illustrations are wonderful, but my favorite is the one showing all the diversity found in a community pool, and all the different people enjoying their own pool time activities:

Be sure to look at the endpapers to see an illustrated guide of the five most common swimming strokes. And if you have forgotten how the swimming song goes, you can see it done complete with hand gestures HERE

I think you will agree that there is nothing better on a hot summer day than spending time at the pool with your friends, as Gary Clement reminds us in this picture book.

This book is recommended for readers age 5+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL


  1. I've developed an enthusiasm for swimming since last year. Have been seeing POOL on several blogs. Hope to get to it soon!

    1. It's a fun book and I just love the cover.


Imagination Designs