Review: Pool by JiHyeon Lee

Pool by JiHyeon Lee

Pool by JiHyeon Lee (InfoSoup)

A boy stands at the end of a swimming pool, ready to hop in. But just as he is about to, a crowd of people arrive and take over the pool. It is crammed full of them with their floating tubes and boats, leaving no area of water open. But the boy finds a sliver of water along the side of the pool and dives down underneath the crowd. A girl sees him dive down and heads down herself. The two meet underwater and head deeper together. Down at the bottom of the pool they discover a coral reef filled with wild fish that swim in large schools. There are also tubes large enough for a kid or a colorful eel to hide in. Large toothy fish swim by and then a gargantuan white whale too. The children head up to the surface again, as the rest of the crowd head out of the pool. The two of them are left to dry off side by side and wonder at what else could be underneath that water.

Lee captures the beauty of swimming and the wonder of imagination in this wordless picture book. The two children are distinct from the others floating on the surface, built in a more delicate way and almost matching except for their swimsuits. As they dream of reefs and fish, the water fills with animals. There is a playfulness to their imaginations, creating a world together that is filled with amazing things.

Delicate illustrations are filled with the blue of the pool. As the coral reef appears, there are animals of all sorts, even water spiders. The wonder of the huge white whale is a moment that is lengthened and filled with importance in this picture book. Throughout the pacing is masterfully done, allowing readers time to explore and dream themselves.

A book that encourages long looks and your own fish designs, this picture book is an inspiring and refreshing watery read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: In a Village by the Sea by Muon Van

In a Village by the Sea by Muon Van

In a Village by the Sea by Muon Van, illustrated by April Chu (InfoSoup)

In a fishing village near the sea, there is a small house high in the hills. In that house, there is a kitchen with a warm fire where a pot of noodle soup is simmering. A woman watches and waits, grinding spices in a mortar and pestle while a baby sleeps nearby. Their dog looks down into a hole in the floor and spots a cricket there. The cricket is painting on an easel, creating an image of a stormy sea with large waves. In that sea there is a small boat with a worried fisherman hoping to get out of the storm soon and dreaming of his family in a small house above the sea.

Both the author and illustrator are Vietnamese-Americans. The story was inspired by the author’s father and his ancestral village in Central Vietnam. It is the story of both the men who head onto the sea to fish and the families they leave behind. It is also a story of the cycle of life, of connections to one another. After all, the storm itself is both on the cricket’s easel but also part of the heart of the story too. It’s a book that twists a bit, so that one forgets the origin of the storm and the story, but knows that it echoes with history and truth.

The illustrations are dramatic and gorgeous. They evoke Vietnam with its stunning shoreline. They also capture the danger of the high waves and surging seas, conveying that tension clearly without making it too frightening or intense for young readers. The entire book celebrates the cozy home but also the wildness of nature, dancing from one to the other with ease and creating a strong dichotomy but also connection between the two.

Beautifully illustrated and told, this cyclical story is a journey to Vietnam and a celebration of their way of life. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.