Bubbles…Up! by Jacqueline Davies

Cover image for Bubbles Up.

Bubbles…Up! by Jacqueline Davies, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez (9780062836618)

This picture book celebrates the joy of swimming in a pool on a hot summer day. Focusing on the bubbles created by heading underwater, the merry rhythms of the text bounce along like the bubbles heading to the surface. The bubbles capture the light of the sun until you follow them upwards, surfacing like a porpoise. You have a mom who stays at the side of the pool with your little brother who doesn’t swim yet. Interrupted by a thunderstorm, you huddle with the others in the shelter until it’s safe to return to the water with your friends. When your little brother loses his toy in the pool, you rescue it. You can’t stop for lots of mushy attention though, because you have to keep on swimming.

Sure to bring an immediate grin to kids who love to swim or play in the water, this picture book shares the small pleasures of swimming that make it such a treat. The bubbles heading to the surface, the jumping in, the floating, the diving, splashing and more. Davies’ writing is marvelous, full of repetition, rhythms and rhymes. Her words plunge, dive, swirl and create imaginary underwater worlds.

The illustrations are full of pool blues, sunshine and bubbles. Sanchez uses the words as part of her art, creating words that plunge down and float up. Her diverse cast of characters is delightful, everyone enjoying the pool together.

Dive into this summer delight of a picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.

The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho

The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho

The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow (9781984814869)

Dayeon and her Grandmother watch the sea in the morning from their house. Dayeon’s grandmother is a haenyeo, a woman who dives deep underwater to find abalone. Dayeon is scared of diving though. For breakfast, the two have abalone porridge and practice holding their breath. They both put on sunscreen and diving gear and head to the water. Dayeon plans only to pull treasures from the shore though. After her grandmother finds ten sea gifts, Dayeon agrees to try diving with her grandmother. They walk out into the water together, but during their first dive, Dayeon heads right back to the surface. On her second try though, she manages to hold her breath longer and notice the beauty of the sea around her. Soon though, the dolphins warn them of potential danger and they surface and get picked up by a boat. That’s when Dayeon gets her first sea gift.

Cho tells an engaging story that layers Korean tradition with the joy of grandmotherly love. The grandmother here is patient, allowing Dayeon to approach the challenges at her own pace, but also encouraging her to try again when she fails. Dayeon herself shows how an early scare can turn to triumph by facing your fears head on. These elements work particularly well when the challenge is something as large as diving for abalone in the deep sea.

Snow’s illustrations are full of light and steeped in color. The sky and sea are purples, oranges, blues on the page. In one amazing illustration, the characters walk to the sea through a field with mermaid shadows behind them.

A picture book about resilience, challenges and tradition. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kokila.

Swim Swim Sink by Jenn Harney

Swim Swim Sink by Jenn Harney

Swim Swim Sink by Jenn Harney (9781368052764)

After three tiny ducks hatch from their eggs: “Crack! Crack! Crack!” “Quack! Quack! Quack!” Their mother leads them down to the pond to swim. The ducklings jump in: “Swim, swim…sink!” Wait, ducks are supposed to float and swim. They try it again, and the duckling sinks every time. Perhaps there’s a solution? Water wings? Scuba gear? A jetski? But nothing seems quite right, until the duckling comes up with a unique solution all their own that involves using their discarded eggshell. Now the story works again and so does the rhyme. 

Harney uses broad comedy in this picture book that just has to be read aloud to be enjoyed to the fullest. The rhyme she creates is wonderfully bouncy and jaunty, offering just the right amount of rhythm and speed to be cleverly derailed by the sinking duckling. The humor here is just right for toddlers who will delight in the surprise of the story shifting right in front of them. 

The art is bright and bubbly with a merry tone. The sinking duckling in the green-blue water is satisfying and abrupt, adding to the humor of the moment. The final solution the duckling figures out is another great visual moment in the story. 

Reading this one aloud will always go swimmingly. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Jasper & Ollie by Alex Willan

Jasper & Ollie by Alex Willan

Jasper & Ollie by Alex Willan (9780525645214)

Jasper and Ollie are best friends. At breakfast, Jasper wants to go to the pool and Ollie agrees. Jasper, the fox, wants to race to get there and runs out of the house. Along the way, he pull on his swimsuit, blows past the mailman who dumps his letters, jumps over a turtle painting a fence, and hustles past the ice cream truck. Now Jasper has to wait for Ollie though. And Ollie, the sloth, has a very different approach. He watches butterflies, smells the flowers, picks up the spilled mail, gets a drink, helps paint the fence, and gets an ice cream cone. Meanwhile Jasper is rushing around trying to see if Ollie is somewhere at the pool and manages to get himself thrown out. Luckily, that is just when Ollie arrives with ice cream cones for both of them.

Willan tells this story solely in speech bubbles. He uses framing techniques from comic books to great effect here. On the larger upper frame, he shows Jasper in his speedy desperation to find Ollie. Below, Ollie moves along quietly enjoying his walk to the pool. Jasper is often accompanied by a dashed line showing his movement over and under and around people and obstacles and usually accompanied by chaos in his wake.

The illustrations are brilliantly done with plenty of humor too. It has a wonderful aesthetic to it where the pattern of Ollie’s swimsuit is repeated on various things at the pool that Jasper searches. The illustrations are worth looking closely at to catch all of the funny moments and small touches along the way.

A combination of speed and sloth that makes for a great friendship and plenty of laughs. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Doubleday Books for Young Readers.

Review: Saturday Is Swimming Day by Hyewon Yum

Saturday Is Swimming Day by Hyewon Yum

Saturday Is Swimming Day by Hyewon Yum (9780763691172)

A little girl wakes up with a stomach ache on Saturday, worried about her swimming lesson. When they get to the pool, it is loud and cold and wet. She doesn’t enter the pool at all, only getting wet when she takes a shower afterwards. The next week, she has a stomach ache again. This time, her instructor asks her to try getting in the pool and gently encourages her to try some movements in the water. The following week, she doesn’t have a stomach ache at all! She tries bobbing her head and even floating on her back, though she’d like her instructor nearby at first. This picture book looks positively at giving children time to adjust to new experiences and yet to continue encouraging them to try new things.

Yum captures the feelings of a child learning to swim. It is a frightening experience at first, filled with echoing noise, dampness and others enjoying it far more. All of the adults in the little girl’s life allow her time to be brave and don’t push in a negative way. The book is told her voice, so she demonstrates on her own how her viewpoint changes over time and the experience becomes positive and source of pride for her.

Yum’s illustrations are expressive and center on the little girl in each image. She uses watercolors very successfully to capture the flow of the water in the pool and its blue depths. Against that softer texture, the characters pop in bright colors as they swim, or don’t swim yet.

A winning book that shows how bravery sometimes takes time. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

3 Swimmingly-Good Picture Books

The Brilliant Deep by Kate Messner

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding The World’s Coral Reefs by Kate Messner, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe (9781452133508)

All his life Ken Nedimyer was fascinated by the ocean. He would dive in the Florida Keys to see the coral reefs and wonder at how they grew. Then he started to notice that the reefs were losing color and dying. Ken placed rocks in the ocean and then took them back to use in saltwater aquariums. One of his rocks happened to have a staghorn coral emerge on it, something that was illegal to remove from the sea unless it was growing on a live rock collector’s site. Then Ken had an idea, using this first piece of coral to grow more and more of them. He took those corals back to the dying reef and planted them there, not knowing if they would grow. It was a beginning, one that would show how reefs could be helped to recover, one coral at a time.

This inspirational nonfiction picture books shares the way that one person can help the environment by taking a risk and doing the work. The end of the book shares ways that children can help the coral reefs, with more articles and organizations to explore. The text of the book celebrates the wonder of the ocean and still explains the environmental crisis. That tension between the two makes for a compelling story. The illustrations glow on the page, lit by sunlight filtering through the water. They are luminous and hauntingly beautiful, even the images outside of water carrying a strong sense of place and the ocean.

A great picture book biography to share aloud or give to children who love water themselves. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.)

Dude By Aaron Reynolds

Dude! By Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Dan Santat (9781626726031)

This one-word picture book is a delight in different emotions. Two friends head to the beach together for a day of surfing and sun. Platypus and Beaver head into the sea, greeted by a soaring pelican who dips down to the water and back up again, but not without a little humor on the way. Then a shark shows up! But he just wants to join in the surfing fun. When a big wave crashes them onto the beach and ruins their boards, it’s good that they have made a new friend so that the fun can continue.

The use of just one word works brilliantly here. Sharing it aloud is great fun, though those reading aloud will have to look to the pictures for how that particular “Dude!” should be said. It is used for joy, panic, fear, dismay, sadness and much more throughout the story. Thankfully, the illustrations are done by master of humor, Santat. His bright palette and combination of comic panels and large two-page spreads make for a dynamic combination just right for this story.

A bright sunny summer read, dude! Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (9780763690458)

Julian and his abuela take the subway home. On the subway, Julian notices three mermaids riding with them. Julian loves mermaids and daydreams about swimming in the deep and turning into a mermaid himself. When they get home, Julian mentions that he’s a mermaid too, but his abuela is busy heading for her bath. While she is bathing, Julian finds flowing hair for himself and a crown, a gown made of a curtain and some lipstick. When Julian’s abuela sees him, she gets dressed and then gives him a necklace. They head out of the house and off to a parade of other mermaids where Julian fits right in.

There is so much to celebrate in this picture book. Julian is an amazing example of a young person expressing their gender identity in a very direct and yet imaginative way. His grandmother is an even better image for people to read about, a grandparent who accepts a child for who they are without question and offers a way forward hand-in-hand. Told in very simple terms, this story is approachable for all ages, even parents and grandparents.

The illustrations are rich a beautiful. On light brown backgrounds, the illustrations are bright and shining. They are filled with body positivity in a variety of ways both subtle and direct. Perhaps the most successful part is Julian’s transformation into a mermaid in a way that still shows the costume and how it was created but also turns Julian’s dream into reality right before the readers’ eyes.

This one belongs in every library, it is sublimely diverse and accepting. Appropriate for ages 5-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall (9780763678388, Amazon)

Jabari is ready to jump off of the diving board, or so he tells his father. Jabari has finished swimming lessons and passed his swim test, so he should be ready. He declares that he isn’t scared at all. Then they get to the pool, where he sees other kids diving off the board. Jabari lets others go ahead of him. He climbs part way up and then down again to rest a bit and stretch. His father tells him that it’s alright to be scared and how to handle it because it may feel like a surprise at the end. Jabari tries one more time, reminding himself that he loves surprises. Can he do it?

Cornwall depicts a very loving African-American family here with father, son and a little sister. Throughout, the father is very supportive. He is there to hold hands, give a little squeeze and then offer direct advice. Best of all, he is there to celebrate the success too. The writing builds the pressure and emotions that Jabari is experiencing as he keeps trying. It emphasizes the height, the fall, and the bravery that the jump takes.

The illustrations are done in pencil, watercolor and collage with digital color. They have a wonderful texture to them, the sidewalks with subtle words on them, the pool water a swirling blue-green. Again, the height of the diving board is emphasized to great effect.

A summery splash of a book that is just right for reading when afloat in a pool, whether you are brave enough for the diving board or not. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

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: Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan

queen victorias bathing machine

Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Queen Victoria longs to get out of the heat of the summer as well as her itchy clothes and tight corset and just be able to swim in the sea.  But her lady-in-waiting collapses even considering the scandal that could take place if someone were to see the queen before she reached the water!  The queen gives up the idea, realizing that there is no way that she could be properly dressed and still able to swim.  Prince Albert though wants to try to figure out a way to get his beloved wife into the water.  Albert came up with many ideas, but none of them worked.  Then he struck upon a wonderful idea, a wheeled wooden cart that could be pulled right into the water.  This true story of a queen who wanted a touch of freedom ends with an image of the restored bathing machine that is now on the Isle of Wight in England. 

Whelan takes a wonderfully playful look at solving the queen’s swimming problems.  She makes sure that at the base of the entire story is the adoration between Albert and Victoria, a rich love story even though they were monarchs and parents.  Cleverly having a fainting lady-in-waiting who is the voice of propriety in the book helps children understand the expectations of decorum in a previous day.  Whelan writes in a free rhyming verse here, the looseness of the poems feel simple by belie that skill that it takes to write in this style.

Carpenter’s illustrations also have a sprightly humor to them.  They also celebrate the love of the two historical figures.  Perhaps the most joyful images are Victoria finally able to swim and cavort in the water.  Or maybe it is the final illustration where Victoria is happily held in Albert’s arms dripping and happy. 

This piece of historical fiction is based on a true story and shows creativity and problem solving galore.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.