Winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Picture Book Award
A reverent celebration of learning to swim among a diverse cast of children and families who each experience the mysterious joys of water in nature.
In this exploration of what it truly means to swim, expansive vignettes introduce sandpipers, tannin-soaked lakes, and the feeling of a small waterfall on sun-soaked shoulders. But what about those who are afraid of the water's mysterious ways and resist learning to swim? Painting a compelling picture of the many joys and surprises that the water holds, artist and author Jack Wong has delivered an empowering, poetic journey that invites children to discover their confidence within to receive the warmth and wonder of the natural world.
In visually inventive, lovingly finished pastel-and-watercolor spreads and sinuous lines of prose-poetry, debut author-illustrator Wong showcases myriad children encountering the joys of swimming. An adult accompanies a child in each spread, narrating in anticipatory text what awaits them both: "When you can swim,/ first I'll take you to the ocean//... to receive the water's welcome." Throughout, varied figures spanning abilities, ages, body types, and skin tones float, stroke, and dive into and under water. Across numerous locales—a local pool, a sandy beach, an opulent lake, and a winding river—the figures spot sea stars, "listen to the clinking/ of waves passing in and out/ of a million pebbles," dive down deep into a lake "pitch-dark from tree bark," and, in a final, suspenseful sequence, swim together a long way out to an island with ripe blueberries. "Yes, this belongs to you, too," reads an author's note, in which Wong describes learning to swim as an adult. Such belonging is precisely the triumph that the story envisions, offering swimming's freedoms widely, and imagining the way that swimming can lend a feeling of autonomy and connection. Ages 4–8.